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The Voice of the Black Community
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Peddle power
At West End Market, finding deals brings neighbors closer
 
Published Thursday, July 14, 2011 7:18 am
by Bryant Carter, For The Charlotte Post

It’s a hot Saturday morning on the corner of West Trade Street and Wesley Heights Way, but business is already bustling.
PHOTO/CALVIN FERGUSON
TommieJean Hagood (center) shows a hand-made sash to potential buyers at the Historic West End Market on July 9. The market, in its third year, brings vendors to the Northwest Corridor every Saturday throughout the summer.

Fifteen tents encircle the lot with vendors hawking skin care products, clothing, confectionaries, and produce. Curious shoppers pass through, browsing items or picking up breakfast.

Every Saturday this summer from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Historic Westend Market springs to life, an open-air fair where vendors sell assorted goods. Historic West End Partners, an economic development nonprofit representing the Wesley Heights, Biddleville, and Seversville neighborhoods, has sponsored the market since 2009.

The market, which opened June 11, runs through October.

“We’ve run the market for three years,” said Jeanette Praylor, Historic West End Partners’ treasurer.

When the market first opened, Praylor said, it drew 80 vendors. However, neighborhood interest waned last year and stagnant sales forced vendors to drop out. But that didn’t stop organizers.

A grant from Johnson C.Smith University enabled HWEP to install tables and tents, a necessity for fruit and vegetables vendors, Prayor said. Last year produce vendors were introduced to the market.

“There’s a big local produce trend, even in Charlotte,” said Will Gamble, a part-time farmer, “but not many black farmers.”
Gamble grew up on a farm, and hopes to pass farming to his two boys. An electrical contractor by trade, Gamble owns a farm in Sumter, S.C., and is returning from last year.

“I’d love to see more people to come, they’ll see the benefit of buying and eating local foods,” he said. He explained how local produce is guaranteed picked yesterday, while commercial brands ship for weeks.

“It would be a reward for more people to take an interest in supporting local farmers,” Gamble said.

A new feature at the market this year is the Go Local farms, which HWEP President J’Tanya Adams describes as a collective that sells local produce online and at markets.

While patrons shopped for fresh produce they also purchased a warm meal, courtesy of Charlotte Community Culinary School. Three dollars gets you grits, eggs, and bacon, said Chef Sandra Whitfield.

The non-profit school helps low-income people develop job skills through an 18-week course and catering services.
Prayor said the market relocated from the old lot up West Trade Street last year after JCSU redeveloped the land
“We moved here and it’s truly been a blessing,” Praylor said. “There is much more walk in customers.”

Lorraine Mason came on the suggestion of a friend in the community culinary school. At first, she was skeptical driving through the neighborhood, but was impressed at what she saw at the market.

“It was Saturday, so I thought I’d come down,” she said. “It was nice. As I was walking around this Shea butter caught my attention.”

Mason bought the butter for herself, and some smocks for her kids at the Apron Patch, Inc. stand. She hopes the market will encourage different people in the neighborhood to come out and join.

“This area years ago did not look like this,” Mason explained, “Reconstruction is a good thing.”

“We love to meet people,” Adams said. “(We’re) truly just a neighborhood market trying to keep a bright spot on this corner.”

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