Farmers market coming to Prairie District

By Kaley Fowler

As summer approaches, Chicago will host numerous farmers markets. Some locations are staples of the outdoor market scene, while others, such as the Wheeler Mansion Market, will debut this year.

Wheeler Mansion, 2020 S. Calumet Ave., is a historic boutique hotel located in the South Loop’s Prairie District. The mansion will hold its first market from 4 – 8 p.m. June 6. The market will open every Wednesday through Oct. 31.

“There is definitely a need for a farmers market in this area,” said Stephanie Lu Jokich, spokeswoman for the mansion. “The response from the community has been overwhelming. People are so excited for the market.”

Jokich said the market has been in the planning stages for approximately six months. During that period, organizers worked to secure entertainment, gauge community response and entice vendors. Approximately 20 vendors have signed on so far, and Jokich said she expects more to express interest as the market progresses. She said it will emphasize local, independently owned businesses offering products ranging from baked goods to meat to handmade jewelry.

According to her, the market’s aim is to help vendors enlarge their customer base.

“Our main goal is to see the vendors do really well and to have the market be really successful as far as [the number of] shoppers,” Jokich said. “We want people to know more about the mansion and the hotel, but it’s really important that the vendors

do well.”

Marisa Angebranndt, owner of WannaHavaCookie.com, a Chicago-based website selling homemade baked goods, said she sees the market as an opportunity to expand beyond her online business and interact with customers in person.

“Being an online company, it’s hard to connect with people face-to-face,” Angebranndt said. “I see the market as an opportunity to engage with the community instead of a strictly bottom-line venture.”

Because several vendors are new to the South Loop, many see the market as an opportunity to establish their presence in a different area of the city. “[The market] is a chance for us to be a part of the cool South Loop community,” said Katherine Duncan, owner of Katherine Anne Confections. “We do markets in Andersonville, Rogers Park, Wheaton and Wilmette. This will be a whole new client base [for us].”

Duncan explained that while such outlets provide vendors the opportunity to interact with customers, marketing certain products like her chocolates presents a challenge because many customers come seeking traditional farmers market fare.

“We get to connect with people who care about things we care about: local, organic, sustainable [foods],” Duncan said. “But it’s also a challenge because people don’t come to a market looking for chocolate. We definitely have to explain why we’re awesome to each customer.”

Jokich said the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance has been working hard to promote the market to draw a new crowd to the area.

Renee Manser, owner of Nature’s Pasture, a grass-fed beef farm in Wisconsin, said the PDNA’s efforts are promising.

“We feel like they will support us and give us a lot of visibility in the community,” Manser said. “We like that this is a new market in a growing community in the South Loop. We think with a good community association … it will give the market a lot of support.”

Vendors still have the opportunity to sign up for space, Jokich said, adding that there is no cutoff date.

Jokich said Glessner House Museum, 1800 S. Prairie Ave., would open exclusively during market hours, offering free tours to patrons.

For a complete list of vendors and more about the Wheeler Mansion Market, visit MarketAtTheMansion.WordPress.com.

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