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French Market Coming Back... With Some Changes

Cheaper rent for vendors and more community involvement are some of the changes the village negotiated in a new, tentative contract with the French Market.

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 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 on Wednesday to explain the changes.

"I'm just happy that it's staying here," said Kim McAuliffe of .

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 .

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 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:

barbara Montalvo March 08, 2012 at 05:12 PM
I think there should be a place for local residents to sell their wares in the Metra lot at a discount price. they should also let crafters come in say once a month to sell their wares with their own tents and tables to be set up in the Metra lot going down toward the other businesses on the street.
barbara Montalvo March 08, 2012 at 05:22 PM
These prices for a booth are not in comparison with the Homewood market in the paper last year stated the market was paying 5.00 per booth how does that compare to these prices. Also I go to markets in the area and number one would not do a market with this company due to all that they charge and insurance they want me to carry just for a one day event per week. This market is too expensive at other markets in the area I have paid no more than 30.00 per spot or had the option of paying 180.00 for the season. The most expensive market was in Palos at a rate of 300.00 for the season approx 20 weeks of selling. You as administrators need to rethink this for your village. If you lower the price you might get more vendors. I was at your market one week when a gentleman was there selling picnic tables. He biggest complaint was that the cost is not worth it for him to sell his wares. He stated he would make more by setting up on the corner and selling out of his truck. Please rethink this before you vote on it on Monday.
Wizzo March 08, 2012 at 08:27 PM
How much of the booth rental goes to the village? Does the village help negotiate the rental prices?

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