LOGAN SQUARE — The Logan Square Farmers Market is suddenly without a winter home.
The market was held for the past two weekends in the parking lot of The Fields at 4000 W. Diversey Ave., but it has been kicked out of the building by the ground-floor grocery tenant, Cermak Fresh Market, said market organizer Nilda Esparza.
Cermak’s officials were concerned the market was stealing business from the grocery store and were frustrated market-goers were taking up parking spots meant for grocery store customers, Esparza said.
Officials also said the setup resulted in “confusion,” with market-goers routinely coming into the grocery store to ask where the market was.
“It was a myriad of things,” Esparza said.
The shakeup has left vendors scrambling. Mint Creek Farm sent an email to customers saying they had arranged for alternative pickup sites for their pre-paid boxes of vegetables and fruits until a new location is announced.
A new location will likely be announced in the coming days, as Esparza has been hard at work since Monday afternoon, when Cermak officials put the kibosh on the market. She said she visited four sites on Tuesday and is confident one of them will work out and the market won’t miss a weekend.
“I have some really good feelers out there,” Esparza said. “I feel very positive we’ll be indoors again and it’s going to be just as smooth a transition as it was” when the market moved to The Fields.
In the meantime, Esparza was able to extend the outdoor city permit, which means the market will be held outdoors one last time this weekend. She said that’s a win for vendors and market-goers who can take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather Chicago has been getting.
Esparza is leading the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce on an interim basis. She was not involved in the decision to move the indoor market to The Fields, a massive loft building owned by the New York-based development firm Knickpoint Ventures.
Esparza said Cermak has an exclusivity clause in its lease, which would mean the market wasn’t legally allowed to sell groceries in the building. Cermak officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Zain Koita with Knickpoint Ventures said in an email, “We weren’t really involved and I don’t want to get involved in an issue between third parties.”
Koita said the situation was “more of a misunderstanding than anything else.”
“It has been resolved with the Logan Square Farmers Market and Cermak Fresh Market with no further issues and I believe the farmers market has already found an alternate venue,” he said.
Esparza stressed she doesn’t blame Cermak officials or Knickpoint Ventures for the shakeup. She said Knickpoint is “awesome” for letting the market move in the past two Sundays, and while the 50,000-square-foot heated parking lot was perfect for the market, she understands Cermak officials’ concerns.
“I am not interested in a smear campaign … . I’m not blaming anyone for anything,” she said.
“It was a learning curve and they felt like they were potentially losing customers, and we totally understand where they’re coming from. We had to switch gears … and that’s what we did.”
In past years, the indoor market was held at Emporium Logan Square and at Pierre’s Bakery, which has since been torn down to make way for a large residential development.
The coronavirus pandemic makes finding an indoor home for the market this year especially challenging. Esparza is tasked with finding a site that allows for proper social distancing and is also heated.
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