Leaders of the Lansing City Market say it's about to enter another phase, with more vendors and more attractions, and they say they hope to announce a deal soon with a new anchor tenant. Current State talks with the market's new director, Audrey Tipper, and the CEO of the Lansing Public Entertainment and Facilities Authority, Scott Keith.
Officials say change is coming to the Lansing City Market. Many have questioned the direction and the relevance of the city market in recent years. Its profile in downtown Lansing has shrunk and been redefined several times, from an emphasis on fresh, locally grown produce to one involving more retail businesses and entertainment.
Critics have complained about a shortage of vendors and parking, and an absence of spark in the place.
Current State talks with Scott Keith, the CEO of the Lansing Public Entertainment and Facilities Authority or LEPFA, which oversees the City Market, and Audrey Tipper, who the LEPFA board recently approved as the city market’s new director.
What have residents you’ve surveyed told you about what kind of city market they want?
Scott Keith: Resoundingly people still hung on to the farmer’s market piece, but what they also stated was convenience was a big issue. And with proliferation of markets in the area – not just farmer’s market and the seasonal farmer’s markets – but the growing concept of Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme and these sorts of grocers who had become farmer’s markets, we recognized that an urban market was a different thing where artisanal products were offered.
Audrey Tipper: We would love to have some of those artisanal products. That’s really what we’re aiming for.
What kind of business do you expect your “anchor tenant” to be?
It’s going to be towards an open grocer type business. Which is really we identified as something that could bring goods to Downtown residents we see the residential area grow right around us with marketplace, the outfield, and stadium district. Those people have needs for basic grocery items and artisanal items that this grocer can fill.
How do you persuade people who are wedded to a more traditional approach that the city market needs to change?
Tipper: I think we need to keep in mind those traditionalists as well is that the urban aspect. I, myself, grew up on a dairy farm so when I have those types of conversations with people, I do bring that into play and say “I understand. I went to the markets. I’ve sold my products from knee high.”
So, I think that we’re definitely planning on having a Farmer’s Market Day similar to farmer’s markets in our surrounding area do. So hopefully between the day or two that we’re doing the farmer’s market and the rest of the urban artisanal products that we have will be able to satisfy a variety different needs that people are looking to meet.
Do you feel like you are adequately funded to market the Lansing City Market?
Keith: We’re adequately funded. We just have to be more aggressive in our types of marketing. We are now active in events and things that will bring people-- especially families or new people--to the area. Like tonight’s ‘Jazz on the Grand’ which WKAR is a proud sponsor of. Those type of activities. We look to expand that next year to maybe some other musical offerings. That’s not your traditional marketing, but it is getting people down to your market to shop, to experience-- particularly along the riverfront--new elements that we can offer to people.
Social media certainly is part of it. We have fitness activities. We have a lot of different things like that, that are not traditional marketing, that get people down to the market.