Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to visit NewBo City Market

Grand opening in Cedar Rapids planned for Saturday

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CEDAR RAPIDS – Sources say U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is scheduled to appear at the grand opening of the NewBo City Market on Saturday.

Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, is a supporter of local foods and farmers markets. He will be one of the speakers during the program that begins at 10 a.m., a market spokeswoman said.

NewBo City Market, 1100 Third St. SE, will open its doors at 8 a.m. Saturday, after years of planning. The free grand opening runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, followed by the NewBo Bash, a ticketed event, from 7-11 p.m.

Proponents say the market will serve as a gathering place, a business incubator for budding entrepreneurs and another outlet for fresh, local foods.

The $5 million dollar facility, a renovated factory warehouse, will host several activities for the grand opening. The weekend will include a kid’s day on Sunday and live music and dancing on Saturday. But managers say the real long term test of success will take a year or so after the “newness” wears off. And they’re betting the same people who crowd area farmers markets on summer weekends will embrace local vendors year round.

Ann Poe, market director and city council member, said city or public markets with “mom & pop” sized vendors have worked well elsewhere. One in Cleveland, Ohio just celebrated a 100th anniversary.

But Luann Gilman and her partner Mary Krivit are both nervous and excited about the opening weekend. They’re one of about two dozen vendors with space inside, and for both, it’s a first business outside the home. They’ll sell cheese at the market under the name New Bo Cheese. And while they want to see proof the concept will work, they’re excited.

“I think it will be a great concept for Cedar Rapids and everybody’s going to be excited to come down here for the great vendors,” Gilman said. Her partner, Krivit, said she has already seen signs of excitement from the public.

“I’ve been surprised when out purchasing things for our stall here when I give them the credit card (with the business name) they’re like ‘I’m so excited about the NewBo Market opening,’” she said.

In warmer months, as many as 150 sellers will set up outside in a more traditional farmers market atmosphere. At other times of the year, the market will offer special events like holiday shopping to draw crowds. But those manning the stalls inside have to hope a visit here becomes a weekly shopping trip and not just the occasional entertainment. Because they see that as a surer sign of long term success.

Jerry Gillon, who will operate Betty & Bobo’s Breads, sees a good demand for the kind of products customers will find at NewBo.

“It’s customer service, it’s something I enjoy doing so I’m just looking forward to the opportunity. There’ll be a few bumps as we go along but we’ll get them smoothed out,” he said.

Workers are still putting on finishing touches this week, but managers promise everything will be ready to go when the doors open to the public Saturday morning. And vendors actually won’t have to wait to Saturday to make a first sale. Thursday night, New Bo will host a private party for donors and invited guests. And all the vendors will be open and getting some practice making sales.

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