Small businesses are ‘embraced’ at Evanston’s indoor farmers’ market


Zoe Malin/The Daily Northwestern

John Brandell, owner of Frosty Productions, sells his honey and maple products to customer Ronda Patino. He is a vendor every week at the Evanston Ecology Center Indoor Farmers’ Market.

Zoe Malin, Reporter

Every Saturday morning from December to April, the Evanston Ecology Center comes alive as vendors set up for the city’s indoor farmers’ market. Businesses from across the Midwest and Chicagoland area share their offerings at this weekly event, highlighting fresh food and other unique products.

In its eighth year of operation, the Evanston Ecology Center Indoor Farmers’ Market draws between 150 and 200 customers each weekend, Matt Poole, program coordinator at the Evanston Ecology Center, said. He said a few vendors from Evanston’s outdoor farmers’ market began to rent out the space in 2012. The City of Evanston eventually took over and now runs the event.

Dušan Katić, head baker of Katić Breads, said of all the benefits the market offers, nothing compares to the “one-on-one connection” with customers.

“The indoor farmers’ market is a way for us to remain in contact with customers who appreciate what we create,” Katić said. “My work and that of other small business owners is best embraced in Evanston.”

Katić said the indoor farmers’ market is essential to what he sees as a “mutual relationship” between business owners and customers.

He highlighted the difference between the farmers’ market and online shopping in an “internet age.”

“The market emphasizes that the person buying is a human being and the person producing is a human being,” he said. “Having this contact is something online buying takes away, but something small businesses can’t lose.”

Poole said the Ecology Center holds up to 14 vendors, though the number varies as different vendors are scheduled each week. But some business owners set up shop at the market every Saturday, including Denny Wright, owner of The Wright Way Farm in Beloit, Wisconsin. He travels over 100 miles to the Ecology Center each week to sell fresh microgreens and potatoes, and said the trip is “always worth it.”

“Small farms are based on community connection,” Wright said. “We try to get as close as we can to the neighborhoods we serve, and the indoor farmers’ market is the perfect way to do so.”

Poole said the indoor farmers’ market has a few new vendors every season, but others have been a part of it for years. The 2018-2019 season is Dawn Cibak’s fourth year participating with her company Morsels Patisserie. She, like many other vendors, does not have a storefront. Because of this, Cibak said the indoor market is a good source of exposure and a nice place for customers to pick up orders they placed online.

The indoor farmers’ market also gives new businesses a platform to gain a following. Asha Patel founded her company Bhoomi Chai Co. in July and said she is grateful for the chance to receive “real-life feedback” from customers. For a new business, Patel said the ability to test products is “invaluable.”

Whether a vendor is a veteran member of the market or new to the scene, said Angela Maicki, owner of City Press Juice & Bottle, the market has a “great sense of community among our supportive customers.” She is “fortunate to have become friends” with those who attend the market, many of whom are regulars like Evanston resident Joe Meador.

Meador said he and his wife are avid farmers’ market attendees. When they moved to Evanston, they became fans of the outdoor market, which then led them to discover the winter indoor market.

“There’s no better place to get healthy, organic food,” Meador said. “But I mainly come to support local businesses.”

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