What is a Public Market?

A Public Market is a year-round, carefully crafted, intentional and diverse medley of owner-operated shops, stalls and/or "daytables". Public Markets exist to fulfill a public purpose, and to reflect what is distinctive about a community, while serving its everyday shopping needs.

Public Markets typically focus on the sale of a full array of fresh and prepared foods, as well as locally made crafts, rounded out by a variety of needed neighborhood businesses. Sales are made from stores, stalls, carts, and daytables.

Public Markets typically incorporate an outdoor, seasonal farmer’s market for the sale of "in season", fresh and value-added farm products, sold on tables rented by the day. These ‘daytables’ are augmented with local crafts outside the growing season. Public Markets prohibit chain stores and franchises. They focus on businesses that are locally owned and operated, which highlight local foods, character and culture.

Public Markets are typically owned and operated by public or non-profit entities. They exist for multiple public purposes, such as agricultural development, small business incubation, tourist attraction, job creation, access to fresh and nutritious food and increasing surrounding property values.

They are very different from festival marketplaces, farmers’ markets, malls or flea markets.

Public Markets’ throb with color

They are public spaces where different ages, income and ethnic groups, can rub shoulders in a safe, vibrant and fun environment.

They have a proven history of being a powerful economic engine. Public Markets sales will translate into many tens of millions of dollars in new revenue to local entrepreneurs, creates hundreds of new jobs, scores of entrepreneurial opportunities, and millions of dollars in new tax revenues.

According to the S.B.A., roughly 94% of all new jobs that are created in our economy are created by firms that employ between 0 and 4 employees. The reason that Public Markets are so economically beneficial is that they create a needed critical mass by amalgamating these small retailers in a central location with enough critical mass, institutional advertising, display and business support, attractive and needed products, and exciting social energy (the “jazz” factor) to help maximize their chance of success.

Public Markets within the U.S.

Public Markets also add tremendous value to nearby real estate. The $65 million dollars in grants, which funded the initial renovation of Seattle’s Pike Place Market, has leveraged well over twenty times that amount in nearby, surrounding private investment.

Public Markets attract new visitors to a community. For example, Zaretsky developed a Master Plan for the expansion and renewal of the historic Findlay Market in Cincinnati, Ohio


The City followed the Master Plan and Findlay Market is now one of the principal reasons that tourists cite for visiting Cincinnati.

Similarly, Roanoke, Virginia (which has a regional population similar to Dickinson) rebranded and renovated their Public Market – http://www.downtownroanoke.org/city-market. This effort is cited as the principle reason that the owners of the historic Roanoke Hotel invested tens of millions of dollars to reopen the hotel and expand it to include a conference center.

See: http://www.hotelroanoke.com/index.php. Before the Market’s renewal, the hotel had stood empty for decades.

Beloved By Their Customers

Public Markets are beloved by their customers. Recently, in the midst of the recession, Seattle citizens, voted overwhelmingly to raise their property taxes by $73 million to complete a new round of physical renovations at “their” Pike Place Public Market. They did so because they understood how critical the Public Market was to the lifeblood of the City.

Public Markets typically focus on fresh food and local foods such as strawberries and fish from the Gulf. They often have many types of local foods produced on site such as fresh roasted coffee, cheeses, homemade chocolates, fruit and berry based vinegars, salsas, fresh made tortillas, and other value added products. Local handmade crafts are highlighted. Prepared food stalls with counter seating, often focus on ethnic specialties. Restaurants with table seating are typically rounded out by other needed neighborhood services such as a shoe repair shop.

In Public Markets across the country, customers closely mirror the demographic makeup of the larger communities where the Market is located. Unlike malls – which are typically geared towards a particular economic and/or ethnic slice of the local population - Public Markets have historically proven their ability to cut across economic and racial lines in bringing together a broad cross section of the local population in a safe, lively, and exciting venue, where everyone feels welcome.

Successful Public Markets

Most successful Public Markets incorporate vibrant public spaces that provide opportunities for local festivals, concerts, health fairs, etc.

They often include a commercial kitchen where local citizens can learn about food products,  local chefs can demonstrate their cooking talents, and regional hospitals and health departments can teach citizens about nutrition and healthy eating. These kitchens also serve as a commissary kitchen to prepare food for Public Market-sponsored events.

Public Markets are catalysts for the creation of vibrant, mixed-use, successful communities.

Public Markets around the country have helped to create the local emphasis on buying healthful, locally grown, fresh foods.

Public Markets are an idea that is 6,000 years young.

Following the proven success of Pike Place Market at turning around downtown Seattle, approximately 300 new successful Public Markets have been developed or redeveloped in the last 20 years

In addition to attracting a broad cross section of the local population, Public Markets have proven their ability to become significant tourist attractions. The customer base at most Public Markets is roughly 1/3 tourists. In most cities where they are located, the Public Market is the #1 tourist attraction.

The phenomenal resurgence of Public Markets has occurred during a time when most ‘Festival Markets’ (upscale agglomerations of national chain stores – Gucci Shoes, Crabtree and Evelyn, Banana Republic, etc.) have been dying and going bankrupt. See the article “After the Festival is Over” - linked to on the author’s website, for the documentation of this fact.

Upscale “festival markets “, like Houston’s ‘Galleria’, as well as many  shopping malls have barely kept up with inflation, as they try, without a lot of success, to compete with the internet and catalog sales.


Seattle Public Market
Seattle Public Market

Seattle Public Market

Findlay Market

 Entrance outside of Cincinnati’s Findlay (Public) Market

Roanoke Hotel

Roanoke Hotel

Pike Place, Seattle

Pike Place Market on a “slow” day – 14,500,00 annual customer visits to 250 merchants

The Original Starbucks at Pike Place Market

The Original Starbucks at Pike Place Market

Diverse Group