Million-dollar Market impact
Isaac Guerrero, RRStar
ROCKFORD — City Market is no summer fling.
It’s a marriage of tourism and culture that is breeding entrepreneurs and business that, in turn, is priming Rockford’s economic pump.
That’s the gist of a new study that examines the economic effect of the weekly summer gathering where vendors sell anything from organic apples and handmade soap to homemade pies and art you can wear or hang on a wall.
Attendance this year was 57,186, a 46 percent increase from 39,142 in 2011. Ninety-two percent of attendees this year came from outside downtown Rockford, and more than half of attendees came from outside Rockford.
It’s no surprise to Peter Provenzano, chairman of the nonprofit that launched the market three years ago at East State and Water streets.
“You’re always told that people are afraid of coming downtown, right?” he said. “That’s not what we’re experiencing. No more than people are afraid of all the homeless people on Michigan Avenue” in Chicago.
By the numbers
Provenzano’s organization surveyed market patrons’ shopping and spending habits this year.
The Rock River Development Partnership hired marketumbrella.org, which manages New Orleans’ markets and is known as a leader in the market industry, to analyze the economic value of downtown Rockford’s popular draw.
The direct impact on market vendors this season was pegged at $1.6 million, according to the study. Downtown merchants, restaurants and bars realized $1.1 million in increased business tied to City Market.
That’s not all. In any analysis like this, a standard multiplier is applied to calculate what happens when that $2.7 million circulates through the local economy.
Think of it this way: The market brings people downtown and creates more business for a restaurant there. The owner then uses some of those extra earnings to buy, for example, new tables and chairs from a local furniture store.
The market’s influence on this kind of behavior resulted in about $6.2 million in economic activity this year, according to the study.
Provenzano asked an employee at SupplyCore, his global logistics firm, to run a separate analysis to ensure that the marketumbrella figures made sense. The results were more modest. The multiplier effect was pegged at $5.6 million instead of $6.2 million.
“Either way, it’s in the millions,” he said. “It’s a big honking deal. A big honking deal. This is what a ritual can do, a ritual that people want to come to.”
Zina Horton is reaping the benefits of the ritual. She owns Zammuto’s, a fast-food staple of southwest Rockford known for its signature lemon granitas. Her booth at the market this summer helped her develop a whole new clientele for Zammuto’s and her spin-off catering company, Sweet Ambrosia.
“People have come from all over to visit us at Zammuto’s,” she said. “People from across the river know us now because of the market. People from Loves Park. People from Roscoe.
“We even had someone from Madison, Wis., who found us because they happened to see us at the market when they were in Rockford visiting family.”
Rockford portrait artist Karen Arthurs began showcasing her work near the end of this year’s market season. She also makes jewelry and whimsical, difficult-to-describe dinner table creations from tea cups, saucers and assorted pieces of china.
She hasn’t witnessed a business boom since joining the market, but she’s hopeful. Making art makes her happy. If the market can make her money, too, then that’s a bonus.
“It’s given me exposure,” Arthurs said. “It’s been good.”
Isaac Guerrero: 815-987-1361; email@example.com; @isaac_rrs
Need to know
Rockford City Market is staged Fridays from June 1 through Oct. 12 — 3 to 8 p.m. before Labor Day, 3 to 7 p.m. after Labor Day — on Water Street between East State and Jefferson streets. Go to rockfordcitymarket.com to learn more.
By the numbers: City Market 2012
Spent per visit
Age of visitor
Education level of visitor
High school graduate: 6%
Some college or two-year degree: 31%
Four-year degree: 38%
Post-graduate degree: 25%
Source: 2012 City Market survey, Rock River Development Partnership, marketumbrella.org
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