Starting June 14, the tired, cracked asphalt of the parking lot at Church and Dodge will be home to one of the freshest places in town, as the West End Market (www.westendmarket.org) will be a Saturday regular at the easily overlooked space.
Fresh produce from regional farms will be sold from 7 a.m. to noon each week on the southeast corner of Church Street and Dodge Avenue, which serves as a parking lot for Evanston Township High School on weekdays.
Having a fresh-food market on the west side of town dates back to conversations between community members and members of the Evanston Community Development Corporation, a not-for-profit entity whose aim is to help revitalize Evanston’s west side.
Delores Holmes was president and an active member of ECDC until her election as Fifth Ward alderman. “Back in 2003-04 we started talking about doing something on Church Street all the time,” Ald. Holmes told the RoundTable. “If you have eyes on the street, there won’t be the drug dealing and hanging out, because neighbors will be watching,” she said.
Carolina Pfister, who directed the BooCoo Community Center across the street from the new market’s site, persuaded some of her colleagues in the spring Leadership Evanston class to look at economic development possibilities in the Church/Dodge area.
Susan Besson, another member of the class and one of the organizers of the market, said, “We weren’t sure whether we’d do a study or launch a market, but we’ve hit the ground running. It’s been a very exciting adventure.”
One farmer and two vendors have signed on for the season, Ms. Besson said, and the group has made arrangements to procure fresh produce from other local and regional producers. In addition to fresh food, the market will offer Evanston-made arts and crafts. “There are a lot of creative people who live in the Fifth and Second wards; they can sell their work here,” she said.
Ald. Holmes said even though the market will be “small to start with,” she feels it has a lot of potential. The group is “working out the details” for ECDC to sponsor the market, she said, adding, “The volunteers who set it up and plan to run it are wonderful.”
Ms. Pfister said the new market will complement the efforts already made in revitalizing the Church/Dodge area.
The market should create at least one job, said Ms. Besson, and possibly another half-time job. Long-term, the market group hopes to create an ongoing relationship with The Talking Farm – an Evanston effort to grow and sell food locally.
Noting that the opening of the West End Market coincides with rising oil prices and skyrocketing food prices worldwide, she said, “I wish it weren’t for these reasons that the opening is such good timing.”