Main Street Marketplace ‘beginning to fill up’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 10, 2000

Pat Bacon marked a day on the calendar at the Main Street Marketplace Tuesday. The farmer’s market saw its best day of sales that day since opening in October, said Bacon, who manages the facility in downtown Natchez.

The market, a partnership of the City of Natchez and Alcorn State University, got off the ground slowly, with three vendors taking up space in a building designed for 35 booths. But Bacon said the market now hosts 16 vendors, and she expects more once spring Pilgrimage tourists begin arriving in town.

&uot;Business has been great since the weather cleared up,&uot; she said. &uot;We’re beginning to fill up. Everyone’s trying to come in for spring Pilgrimage.

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&uot;Yesterday was the best day so far. In fact, we marked it down on the calendar.&uot;

The market was financed by a $165,000 grant to Alcorn through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and though city funds and in-kind services.

City Clerk Frances Trosclair said the city budgeted about $30,500 this year to help pay start-up costs for the market. That money comes from transfers from the city’s gaming fund, which has historically been used for such public properties projects.

And Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown said Alcorn has been authorized to receive another $65,000 grant for refrigeration and other furnishings in the market. Until that money comes in, the city has helped with loans from the gaming fund, such as a $2,200 loan the board of aldermen approved Tuesday. Brown expects that money to be paid back once Alcorn has its grant money in hand and revenues increase at the market.

So far, Brown said, the open-air market isn’t turning a profit.

&uot;But it’s not designed to be a profit operation,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s a location for area farmers and craftspeople to sell their goods. It’s designed to generate enough income to pay for itself.&uot;

The market is close to that break-even point, Brown said. The city pays $1,500 monthly rent on the facility – the old Superstore grocery – to St. Mary Basilica.

That money, and the funds for utilities, comes from vendors’ rent. Anything left over goes back to Alcorn.

&uot;It looks good,&uot; Brown said. &uot;Everyday (the market) picks up another vendor. We just need more, and we’ll get more as crops come in.&uot;