City Market looks for ways to help vendors stay afloat

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The City Market Board plans to ask the city for more help to keep struggling vendors afloat. The historic downtown market has been hit hard by the pandemic and nearby construction. Market Street (where the front entrance is) has been torn up and blocked off since last fall.

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Less than half of the market’s 36 spaces are occupied with most vendors behind on rent, including those who closed and left.

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The board hopes for a roughly $250,000 loan that would essentially allow vendors to pay half their monthly rent through the end of the year or pay 10 percent of their gross sales. Like a deferred loan, vendors would ultimately have to pay back the remainder of rent owed.

David Stockton, who’s owned Just Cookies with his wife Lilly for 33 years, called the proposal “a good option” and reasonable as it would be interest-free.

“We feel positive, and we don’t have any plans to leave,” he said. “We want to renegotiate a favorable lease and go from there.”

Some vendors, who didn’t want to be identified, were less enthusiastic. They said the city made a bad situation worse with all construction surrounding the Market. They ask why should they have to take out a loan to keep their business afloat, when the city’s construction is costing them business.

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City Market Executive Director Keisha Gray acknowledge the frustration.

“We’re taking it very seriously,” Gray said. “We’re trying to provide the best help we can for all of our merchants and all options are on the table.”

She also encouraged vendors to continue applying for any and all available grant programs, particularly the SBA’s restaurant revitalization grant.

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