Flint, MI—Visitors to the Flint Farmers’ Market may encounter “pardon our dust” signs over the next few months as new vendors, expansions and even a take-out window come to the beloved downtown space.
“This is the biggest set of moves we’ve made since we opened in 2014,” said Karianne Martus, market manager at the Flint Farmers’ Market during a tour on Jan. 19, 2023.
Those moves, Martus shared, include three new vendors, businesses formerly under the market’s outdoor pavilion shifting inside, and a couple of current indoor vendors shuffling spaces.
The two vendors in the space shuffle are Porter’s Donuts and Penny’s Cafe. Porter’s has moved into Penny’s former spot near the market’s seating area, and Penny’s has moved next to the market’s central entry door.
While the cafe’s new space is slightly larger, owner Rebecca Walgenbach said the real draw was the location’s take-out window.
“I’ve heard a lot of chatter from my customers like, man, I wish we were open many more days,” Walgenbach explained. “So I was like, you know, there seems to be a need, and I want to fulfill that need.”
Walgenbach estimated she and her team will start window service in mid-March, saying she’d like to open five days a week by adding Wednesday and Friday to the market’s standard Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday operating schedule.
“We’ll be starting just to kind of see how it goes,” Walgenbach said, adding that her goal is to begin opening earlier than 9 a.m. for customers wanting to grab a coffee before work. “We did a little poll. Everyone seemed to say 7 [a.m.] was a good time for them.”
New vendors at the market include Taste-N-Life, offering homemade empanadas and sauces, a candy store expanded from current vendor Michigan at the Market, and a Japanese cuisine eatery from husband and wife team Tim and Erin Archuleta.
Erin is originally from Flint, and she and her chef husband returned to the city after selling their successful San Francisco restaurant, ICHI, during the pandemic. Erin said the pair “look forward to all of the friends and neighbors” they’ll get to see regularly at their central market location, as well as the larger vendor family they’ll soon be joining.
“The community of vendors is really special,” she said. “And just having that sense of community matters so much.”
Fernando Bernal, who owns Taste-N-Life with his wife, Olena, said they too were attracted to the Flint Farmers’ Market community and charm.
“We looked at different markets, like Saginaw’s,” Bernal told Flint Beat. But, he said, Flint’s downtown market reminded him of spaces he’d visited in Italy, with airy indoor shopping and bustling crowds. “I really just loved it.”
Taste-N-Life has already opened next to Penny’s Cafe, and the Archuletas’ to-be-named location is projected for early spring 2023.
Vendors From Outside, In
While their faces may not be new, their locations will be: five former Flint Farmers’ Market pavilion vendors are making a permanent move indoors by late February.
I Love Pig, a Cuban sandwich and arepas shop, will be coming to the south end of the market, and Mr. Prince Tacos will be taking over the former Chubby Duck footprint near the market’s north entrance.
Additionally, current pop-ups Snacky Brown and Natural Effecxs, a personal care business, will soon divide up a location by the market’s south entrance, and AT Sweets will be moving to Spectacular Spudz’s location once the latter’s founder, Keysa Smith, transitions to her new downtown brick-and-mortar space.
Spudz’s final day at the Flint Farmers’ Market will be Feb. 9, 2023 according to Martus.
Even with all of the market’s changes, Martus said, she recognizes that the venue could still use more representation from its namesake vendors: farmers.
“We’re working on it,” Martus said. “And this summer we had more farmers than we’ve had in the last three or four summers.”
The market manager noted that many of Flint’s “anchor” farmers retired over the pandemic, and while some had family members take over, the market model doesn’t always make sense for those located further afield or with direct sales options.
“The problem is, everybody wants that food, but [the farmers] don’t need to come, they don’t need us anymore,” Martus said. “Because especially with COVID, they figured out how to do farmstands. They’re doing CSAs. They’re doing online ordering, they’re doing delivery… they don’t need to come stand at a farmers’ market in the hot sun for eight hours a day to sell their corn.”
Martus said she is extremely happy for farmers who have found success through other means, though she hopes more produce and flower vendors will find their way back to downtown Flint this spring.
In the meantime, she said, she’ll continue to find creative ways to bring Michigan-grown produce to Flint utilizing the Flint Fresh Mobile Market, and she’s looking forward to seeing all the new, diverse businesses take shape.
“This list,” Martus said, holding up a spreadsheet of every business discussed on her tour, “includes six businesses owned by people of color, five are women-owned… It’s exciting to continue to build diversity within the market.”