The popular bars and restaurants that have sprung up along West 25th Street next to the West Side Market led U-S-A Today to name the district one of the ten best places in the world to bar hop. Eric Wobser is head of “Ohio City Incorporated, “ the neighborhood’s development organization.
He says the success has helped generate more than 40-million dollars in private investment and 20 new businesses during the last two-years.
Wobser says the daytime mix of local residents, neighborhood business employees and an estimated one-million tourists a year are just part of the
Wobser: “Complemented by a dining and entertainment district that’s emerging at night…it’s really a wonderful convergence of activities, that together, while it’s not always easy, and it can be messy, is exactly how a thriving city should look and operate.”
But the added activity is a concern for many vendors at the West Side Market. Tom Dunderman has run a produce stand called “Basketeria”
for eleven years. He says a big problem is the district’s lack of parking…..
Dunderman: “What we’re finding now is that a lot of people are coming down to the market . And where maybe they used to come into the market, shop and leave, now they’re coming into the market, they’re shopping, they’re going across the street…and having drinks at the local bars and clubs. They’re stopping at the restaurants, which is good, it’s all part of the destination. But it’s just kind of figuring how we can fit everybody in here is the real challenge.”
Michael Turczyk (Tur-zek’) has sold meat at the West Side market for more than two decades. He says some of his regular customers have had to cruise the neighborhood for as much as an hour to find a parking spot.
And, like most traditional markets…the doors are open to shoppers only a few days a week. At the West Side Market it’s Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. A cry for the market to be open on Sunday’s has echoed for years. Turczyk believes some people want the extra weekend hours to help drive the surrounding businesses….and he IS NOT one of them….
Turczyk/Nied: “I don’t think that’s a great idea, the market’s never been open on Sunday’s, and to try to push to have the market try to be the heart of the epicenter around here, just to bring the people down here to promote their other businesses, Idon’t think is the right call. (Nied:)
‘What would be the problem with being open on Sunday’s?’ (Turczyk:)
Well, we also have families tooyou know. We’re here Monday through Friday. Even on Tuesdays and Thursdays when we’re closed, there’s actually vendors down here working to cut the meat for the following day.”
The City of Cleveland, which owns the market, will begin examining all aspects of the facilities operations within the next year…including the possibility of expanded hours. But city officials say there have been no formal or informal discussions on hours yet. Ohio City’s Eric Wobser says the goal is keeping the market as traditional as possible. And he believes forcing Sunday hours could drive some family owned vendors out. ..though there needs to be a discussion on the issue. He says a possible balance could be to shift hours from Monday’s when shopping is light. Studies show Sunday is the second biggest grocery shopping day of the week….
Vince Bronanochi (Born-ah-no-chi) runs Vince’s Meats at the West Side Market, and is president of the market’s tenant association. He’s not opposed to the bars, restaurants, and new atmosphere growing up around the market…though he expresses the same concern as other vendors over parking. He’s also concerned that the changes will force the market to abandon the traditional way it has done business for the last century just to cater to the growing tourist trade. He says in other cities, traditional markets have evolved into seven-day-a-week food courts and flea markets.
Born-ah-no-chi says some business he would like to see open on West 25th Street would offer services the market doesn’t offer….
Bornanochi: “Like in a grocery store…you have a dry cleaner, right there…you don’t have to walk…you don’t have to drive there. You have a pharmacy right there. Now, you do have banks within walking distance, but, we could use a place around there that sells canned goods, that doesn’t compete with the rest of the market. Nothing like this has even been discussed, it’s always entertainment., and while I’m not against entertainment, I would like to see some other things boost the market.”
About 12-thousand people live in the West 25th Street neighborhood. And
Ohio City’s Eric Wobser says more service businesses are being pursued…..
Wobser: “It’s important to a lot of people that they don’t have to get in their car to leave their neighborhood. And if we can fill those gaps in Ohio City, it’ll be beneficial both for vendors at the West Side Market, but more importantly so, for residents of Ohio City. (Niedermier) Is there anything you can say now about what might be on the horizon? (Wobser) We’re not close enough on anything like that, but one of the things we are doing, and we’re seeing real demand for, is food production businesses that see the value of being part of the local “food cluster” that exists in Ohio City. We have over 150 food-based businesses in the neighborhood, so we’re working with a lot of regional producers that are currently based potentially out in the suburbs who really see a place for themselves, and it really makes economic sense for them to be producing where that infra-structure is located, and a lot of that is owed to the West Side Market.”
Wobser says the neighborhood now includes a bike shop and a florist . And, the neighborhood’s evolution even includes plans to build a youth hostel across the street from the market. The developer, Mark Raymond, says if all goes well, it should open early next year……
Raymond: “Well generally, hostels are more popular with younger people, which I think Ohio City is a very young, kind of youthful neighborhood. And also with the market, being at a hostel where there’ll be a shared kitchen and dining area, you can enjoy everything at the West Side Market, not just get something to eat at the market, but bring it back to the hostel and cook it, and get to know the vendors and enjoy some of the great food.”
Emily Dennis has just bought red peppers, avocados and green onions at the market. She’s lived in the neighborhood for 18 years, and walks to the market several times a week for groceries.
Dennis says there are mixed feelings about the neighborhood’s direction…
Dennis: “I can tell you just generally, neighbors are concerned that when they use the term “entertainment district, ”normally that means big nightclubs and rowdy bars. On the other hand, small resturants and little pubs and things are fine. A lot of people would like to see more retail, frankly, to add to the mix. Overall though, the changes are really positive on West 25th Street.”
Something that Dennis and many other residents hope will not change, is the West Side Market, which celebrates its’ 100th anniversary next year….
I’m Kevin Niedermier….89-7 WKSU