Cheaper prices for vendors and more promotion of the French Market as a place for neighbors, not just out-of-towners, could be features of the next five years.
Or Mokena could see three years of an empty Metra lot.
The village recently brokered a five-year contract extension with Bensidoun USA, the company that runs the French Market at the downtown Metra lot in summer. The contract is tentatively set for a board vote on Monday.
No French Market, No Market at Metra
The contract signed by the village 10 years ago has a three-year non-compete clause. That means if the current board wanted to go with another company than Bensidoun, they couldn't hold the market in the Metra lot until 2015.
"If you're going to have a market and have it be someone else, you're going to have to move it somewhere else," Assistant Village Administrator Kirk Zoellner said.
The village negotiated a smaller one-year non-compete clause into the renewal.
"If we get to the end of five years and we're looking at that again, that will give us some flexibility," Zoellner said.
Front Street Reacts
The village held a meeting for several Front Street business owners at Village Hall on Wednesday to explain the changes.
"I'm just happy that it's staying here," said Kim McAuliffe of An English Garden.
Others were not as optimistic that the proposed changes will help the market help the downtown.
"The French Market does not, will not and never has generated any business for Front Street," said Tony Dina, Jr., of Dina's Barber Shop.
What the Market Promises
The contract signed a decade ago put Mokena as what Bensidoun's price scale considers a level three market, Zoellner said.
The five-year extention up for board approval on Monday would make it a level four market, giving it the same price scale as Bensidoun-run markets in Homewood and New Lenox.
Those prices are:
- Farm stand – $39 per week to $31 per week
- Produce, plant or flower stand – $46 to $35
- Specialty food stand – $42 to $32
- Concession food stand – $48 to $38
- All other – $54 to $41
Bensidoun agreed to several other changes that could make the market a better place for residents, not just out-of-towners seeking weekend markets.
"It's a great place to get together and catch up on the events of the last week and you might want to pick up some cheese while you're here," Zoellner said.
Those changes include a liaison booth so people know where to take concerns or complaints, an increase in local advertising and promotion, partnerships with local businesses, a membership in the Mokena Chamber of Commerce and a booth that each week is offered free to a different Mokena non-profit or taxing body like the library or fire protection district.
What the Village Promises
For its part, the village will promote the market more on its website, through its newsletters and through Comcast channel six public access.
It will send more community-wide activities like the police department's shredding days and library programs downtown on market days.
Zoellner praised Bensidoun for allowing Mokena to have a market without having to use staff time and resources to run it.
"We like the fact that they're pretty much a full-service organization," he said.
Read more about the French Market: