The Lansing City Market may not be the new kid on the block anymore, but it continues to chug along like an eager-to-impress teenager working his first summer job. In the last six months alone, two new vendors have set up shop inside the 11,000-square-foot space, over half a dozen existing businesses have expanded their respective footprints and, starting this week, all merchants will be open every Sunday as part of the Summer Sundays promotion.
“Research shows that most people do their grocery shopping on Sunday,” said Heather Hymes, Lansing City Market manager. “By adding this extra day, we’re able to satisfy our regular customers who have been asking us for Sunday hours, and at the same time reaching out to a new crowd that may not have experienced the market before.”
In fact, most of the merchants I talked to last Sunday said they’d seen more new faces than regulars that day. Last summer only certain vendors opted to make Sunday a workday, but Hymes says that this year it’s mandatory that everyone is open.
The Waterfront Bar and Grill has maintained Sunday hours a while now, and basically led the charge by making people curious about why the rest of the market was closed, with the lone exception of Hickory Corners. Waterfront manager Josh Brennan says that usually on Sundays business doesn’t pick up until mid-afternoon, but this week the bar with the most awesome view in town was busy from the time it opened. Talk about cross-promotion.
Newcomer Eric’s Specialty Foods was also having a banner day. It sells an assortment of pre-packaged meals for up to eight people, will work with individual customers to design menus around their allergies, and has over 80 popcorn flavors. Its cheddar corn is so good it patented the process. Oh, and it specializes in vegetarian and vegan food.
When the Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery tasting room expanded last year, it enabled the business to start selling a full selection of produce, preserves, sausages and jerky. And yes, they still have free wine, mead and hard cider taste samples — just don’t use it as a free way to catch a buzz, cheapskate.
This year, the growth of Aggie Mae’s Bakery & Market Deli wasn’t confined to just the market’s walls. Owner Neva Austin also opened a location in Old Town. Her decision to add deli services to her bakery seems to be working out just fine: Austin said foot traffic has tripled recently. Looking ahead, she promises a new line of gourmet cupcakes that will, ahem, “knock people’s socks off.” Challenge taken.
I also swung by Sweet Seasons Orchards, Hickory Corners and Otto’s Chicken/Mooville to chat up the owners and managers. I learned a thing or two about farm fresh milk and chicken meat, and I am quite happy to report that the fresh berries are in.
“Small fruits really make the market,” said Nan Jasinowski, Sweet Seasons owner. “And right now, they’re just rolling in.”
In addition to just being open for business, a revolving set of activities has been added to attract newcomers, including urban chicken farming demonstrations, food safety exhibitions and fitness classes led by local YMCA instructors. Hymes says this community outreach is one of the cornerstones of what a city market should be about, as well as being part of a creative marketing approach.
“We’ll do anything we can think of to attract people,” she said. “These are literally mom-and-pop stores. You talk about small business — well, this is about as small as business gets.”
Lansing City Market
325 City Market Drive, Lansing
Open noon-4 p.m. Sunday through Sept. 2
The market is also open 10 a.m-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday & 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday
Scheduled Summer Sundays activities:
July 15: Urban Chicken presentation
by Corie Jason, 1-3pm
July 22: Open House/ Taste of the Market
July 29: Food Safety presentations
with Ewen Todd
Aug. 5: “Pawsitively Healthy”
Aug. 12: Capital Area Humane Society
Aug. 19: Teresa Szymanski,
Chief of Police, 12-2
Aug. 26: Paws with a Cause