Rockin’ the produce

By HermineBloom

The city’s famous corner rock club, The Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., is widely known for scheduling the most up-and-coming indie bands around. However, on Dec.19, instead of sipping on a chilled brew while watching a band perform that’s likely on every music blog’s best new music list, city dwellers are invited to the venue’s inaugural indoor farmers market, where they might come away with homegrown tomatoes and handspun wool as opposed to rock-induced ear ringing.

On Dec. 19, the wintertime farmers market at   The Empty Bottle will feature a dozen local vendors selling everything from wintry, fresh vegetables to hand-sugared jellies.

The idea was inspired by both bar manager Bruce Lamont’s fondness for farmers’ products and The Empty Bottle’s previous success with their handmade markets.

“Yeah, we are a bar, and we do have live shows, but I want to think of [The Empty Bottle] as a community center that serves alcohol with the events like the handmade market,” Lamont said.

After gathering contacts of his own, Lamont pitched the idea to his co-workers at The Empty Bottle. The idea was well-received because The Empty Bottle has been hosting their handmade market two Saturday afternoons every month. The event is immensely popular, said Pete Falknor, the production manager for the venue.

“We have a pretty big afternoon weekend crowd already,” Falknor said.

Lamont, who regularly buys vegetables from these types of vendors, describes the venture as a no-brainer due to the success of the handmade market.

“You’re putting money directly into the vendors,” Lamont said. “It’s very personal, there’s a connection.

I’ve made a lot of friends by hitting up the markets. I know a half-dozen farmers within 100 miles of Chicago.”

Those who frequent The Empty Bottle for live music and the handmade market are generally more of the “hipster-type crowd,” said Vera Videnovich, who has inherited her family’s long-standing farm in Bridgman, Mich., which is 80 miles from Chicago.

“[The] farmers market shouldn’t just be The Empty Bottle crowd coming,” Videnovich said. “Hopefully we’ll get more neighborhood people coming.”

Videnovich sells produce to Lamont, a supporter of community-shared agriculture. In this system, the farmer is guaranteed some income, she said.

“I deliver whatever’s available in the garden and they eat whatever’s in season,” Videnovich said.

Now she tends her family’s farm full-time and sells her produce at five markets a year after graduating from the School of the Art Institute and working for the Chicago Reader for 17 years.

The exposure is almost just as valuable as the actual sales, which is why Videnovich and a dozen other vendors were willing to become involved.

“By giving us a space, that’s the support,” Videnovich said. “I can grow as much as I want and I need to find a customer to buy it. That’s why I like what they’re doing at The Empty Bottle.”

In the hopes that as many people show up on Dec. 19 as was the case for the handmade markets, which has been about 400  – 500 people throughout the day, Lamont envisions hosting a nighttime summer market with bar-friendly hours.

“Most of the markets that occur in the city are over at 3 p.m. and people work all day,” Lamont said. “We could do a 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. once-a-week summer market. We have the facility to do it. Let’s just utilize it. It has nothing to do with making profit.”

It has everything to do, however, with creating a neighborhood-friendly gathering­, one that puts a different spin on the idea of a market using vendors who sell goat’s milk soap, homemade pierogies and organic ice cream.

“We’re excited to have it right before the holidays, especially with the economy the way it is,” Falknor said. “We appreciate our regulars just as much as they appreciate us. Our hope is that instead of walking down to Dominick’s on a Saturday afternoon, they’ll come here and support the farmers. We’re hoping to give them an outlet.”

The farmers market will take place on Dec. 19 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Visit for additional  information.