Sam Allard / Scene
Justin Bibb accepts the endorsement of Kerry McCormack outside the West Side Market, (9/7/21).
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb and members of his administration met with vendors of the West Side Market Thursday to launch a healthier, more communicative relationship between the market and City Hall.
The relationship was in desperate need of rehabilitation after former Mayor Frank Jackson's final year in office, which included several high profile incidents, including power outages in two consecutive weeks.
What to do about the market, a storied Cleveland institution and popular tourist destination on the city's near west side, became a recurring question on the mayoral campaign trail.
Bibb said he favored transferring the market from city management to a nonprofit operator. That's a move that had previously been proposed by Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack and one supported by a number of vendors who are fed up with city inaction.
Tom McIntyre, who owns the popular Kate's Fish stall, was one of the most vocal vendors in 2021. After the power outages this summer, he closed his stand for two weeks and lambasted the city for its poor management.
"2021 has been a year of seemingly endless and unprecedented challenges facing the vendors," he wrote in a social media post at the time. "On this, our 20th year of business within this historic institution, we have endured multiple power outages, sweltering heat and record humidity within the main market hall due to a lack of ventilation, vendors risking their lives to bring product into the building on a steep ramp due to constantly broken elevators, rain in the basement, equipment failures due to constant power outages, coolers reaching unsafe temperatures with no system to alert or warn tenants, and a complete and utter lack of competent management that has left this facility in the worst shape I’ve ever seen."
McIntyre was one of roughly 30 vendors who attended the meeting at the West Side Market Cafe Thursday. He said that for him, the gathering was important because it demonstrated that vendors will be heard by the administration and that City Hall seems committed to the market's success.
He told Scene that vendors reiterated a number of their top concerns, including a need for active marketing to attract customers, the enforcement of quality standards, and the desire for new management. McIntyre said he was personally hopeful a new non-profit would be formed soon.
Jessica Trivisonno, who was one of two managers of Bibb's transition team, was recently appointed the Senior Strategist for the West Side Market. She said she thought the meeting was successful, and while she was hesitant to speak for vendors, she said she sensed "cautious optimism" about the administration's long-term goals.
That was echoed in responses to the meeting by the vendors themselves.
Trivisonno said that one of her central functions in the new role will be building a stronger relationship between the Mayor's office and the vendors, in part by addressing longstanding complaints. She'll also be tasked with overseeing the transition to a nonprofit operator, a subject broached at Thursday's meeting.
"I want to ensure that the process is community-centered," Trivisonno said, "and to really give it the time and space it needs to be successful."
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