116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — A first-ever “Diversity Market'' pop up will start this Saturday to highlight businesses in the south district of Iowa City.
The pop up will be at 611 Southgate Ave. by the Kingdom Center every Saturday from 3 to 7 p.m. and continue through July 10. The pilot market will feature fresh, homemade food from vendors such as Royceann’s Soul Food and Mama’s Chicken and Fish. Other businesses such as Tax Wright, owned by Verness Wright, and Hannah Born Photography also will be featured, along with local products from emerging businesses including Nikki-Boo Kids, Art by Teagan, Artesanía de Colores, and others.
The community is invited to come eat, shop and encouraged to bring kids to enjoy the family-friendly activities.
The majority of vendors are women from historically underserved populations who are working to grow their business opportunities in Iowa City, according to a news release.
The event producers — local businessperson Tasha Lard, South District Neighborhood Association President Angie Jordan and community builder Marlén Mendoza — are working with vendors to support new entrepreneurs in the south district and find broader market appeal.
“We’re excited to provide local food vendors and immigrant entrepreneurs with opportunities to directly sell to their community members and grow their businesses through annual community family events like the Diversity Market,” Marlen Mendoza, co-founder of the Colectivo de Mujeres en Negocios or Collective of Women in Business, said in the statement. “This is a steppingstone in creating a potential yearlong market to replicate the success of Mercado on Fifth in Moline, Ill. We hope everyone can join us to buy local and support our local entrepreneurs.”
The event producers said one of the major goals of the event is to “bring together and elevate” Black, Indigenous, People of Color and women entrepreneurs, artisans, and others looking for a spot to shine” and sell their products and services. They also hope to provide a neighborhood opportunity for the south district residents, as well as attract other Iowa City area residents to enjoy this “up-and-coming” side of town.
“I love having the ’business corner’ in my store,” Lard, of JD Beauty Supply, said in a statement. “This allows small business owners to promote themselves by letting customers know who they are. The Diversity Market in the south district will be amazing because it will help business owners like Evelyn of Choco Fresa come out and show how amazing her sweet treats are.”
Angie Jordan, in the news release, said there is a need for “sustainable and relevant small business incubation and acceleration programs led by marginalized populations to serve marginalized populations.”
Since last September, a working committee of residents headed by Jordan, community organizers and business owners with the support of the Iowa City Downtown District have been exploring ways to further develop and revitalize the south commercial area, according to the news release. The group’s effort entails developing what is known as a Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District or “SSMID” — a tool for property owners and businesses within a designated geographic area to collectively spur economic development and stimulate growth. “In short, it is an economic investment for the community, by the community,” event producers said.
Many organizations are supporting the market, including the City of Iowa City, South District Neighborhood Association, Iowa City Area Development Group, Think Iowa City, Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity, Shelter House and Hawkeye Area Community Action Program.
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