Marketplace regroups

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 16, 2001

NATCHEZ – Main Street Marketplace will close temporarily at the end of this month to reconfigure how the market operates, those familiar with the project said Thursday.

The market should reopen in March or April, said City Clerk Donnie Holloway. He attended a meeting that was held last week to brainstorm ways to boost business at the facility.

Officials of Alcorn State University, who is operating the facility, and vendors and volunteers attended the meeting. &uot;The marketplace can work – it just needs some direction,&uot; Holloway said.

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More business is needed because as it now stands, the City of Natchez pays $1,500 a month to St. Mary Basilica to lease the facility – and rent received from vendors only covers 10 percent of that cost, said volunteer Regina Charboneau.

&uot;We know (the market) can be success,&uot; said Charboneau, a chef who has coordinated several food-themed festivals at the market this year. &uot;We just need to take it to the next level.&uot;

A follow-up meeting will be held Jan. 8 to group stakeholders in committees to further brainstorm ways to improve business at the facility, Charboneau said.

But as it now stands, stakeholders have agreed that the facility will close each January and February.

When it reopens, hours will probably be limited to noon to 7 p.m. on Fridays, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays.

Vendors – including farmers, restaurants, other food producers and craftspeople – would be charged $10 a day for space at the facility. The goal would be to get at least 30 vendors scheduled for each Saturday, Charboneau said.

Other ideas have included selling produce and crafts in separate parts of the market, selling produce from trucks outside the market and selling caf\u00E9 items like beignets and coffee.

The temporary closing will also allow some infrastructure work, such as improvements to the building’s sewer system, to be done.

Dr. Jesse Harness, an Alcorn Extension Service official who attended the brainstorming session, could not be reached for comment this week.