We all know the importance of shopping locally. In Cincinnati, Findlay Market is the place to shop local. Findlay Market has been around since 1852, and is the region’s largest outdoor market. It’s home to 50 full-time merchants, plus an additional 75 seasonal/part-time vendors. More than 100 small, independent businesses operate at Findlay Market — 50 of which are full-time merchants.
Findlay Market is about as local as it gets, so the COVID-19 crisis could have been devastating. But, this Cincinnati institution has weathered lots of challenges in its 160+ years, and while COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges, the market is standing strong. Findlay Market’s director of communication Kelly Lanser explains how this market is supporting its vendors, shoppers and city, and how Cincinnati can support its beloved market in return.
It’s been a tumultuous last few months. How are you holding up?
Findlay Market has been around a long time, and weathered many challenges. As with any business that’s open right now, Findlay Market is taking extra safety precautions: we’ve added hand-washing stations, organized queuing systems to divert shoppers, and stepped up cleaning and sanitizing measures. As a primarily grocery-related business, we’ve gotten creative to work around the COVID-19 crisis, in ways that benefit our customers and vendors.
What are you doing to keep Findlay Market up and running during this time?
We’ve been around 160 years, and this spring, our vendors/merchants have radically adjusted their business models. Vendors who have operated the same way for generations, have pivoted to new business models (i.e., carry-out/delivery options) based on the current environment.
From an administrative perspective, Findlay Market has implemented a market-wide gift certificate program where a customer can choose a gift certificate for a certain vendor. This model allows Findlay Market to provide funds to their vendors right away, which is a huge relief for vendors.
3CDC has also implemented a program where if you purchase a gift certificate, they’ll match the funds, adding another gift certificate to a similar organization. This is a fantastic way to highlight local vendors, many of which are women and/or minority-owned businesses.
What are some of the ways you’re staying connected with the community/helping the community during this time?
This spring, Findlay Market received funds from Johnson Foundation and P&G Foundation to provide eight recipients per week a $50 gift card to use on the Findlay Market shopping app. This program runs eight weeks, and anyone who’s been affected by COVID-19 is eligible for this program.
Speaking of the app, Findlay Market actually started an app over the holidays. It was being workshopped earlier this year, with a plan to do a big launch this spring. With COVID-19, that plan went out the window, and the app has been a game-changer for vendors/customers. The app (a collaboration with local Food Forest app) allows for people to shop from over 20 Findlay Market merchants; and you can shop by store or item type. In addition, you can use the app to shop for items from other grocery stores that you can’t find at Findlay Market — we’ll aggregate from local grocery stores, to give people a one-stop-shop experience. The Findlay Market app has been a lifeline for some of their merchants that have been struggling.
Right now, everything still feels very uncertain. What are you hoping for the future?
With COVID-19, we have been reminded of the support of the Findlay Market community and the desire to support small/independent businesses. Going forward, we need to support our local businesses. Because of Findlay Market’s short sourcing chain, people can find hard-to-find items at the market. Foods and items people are struggling to find at traditional stores, they can find at Findlay Market.
Going forward, my hope is that the merchants/vendors continue to provide the carry-out, pick-up options to customers, and that people will continue to use the app in addition to visiting Findlay Market. COVID-19 is a humbling reminder of how many people in Cincinnati rely on Findlay Market, and the importance of supporting small businesses, all the time.