“YOU’RE GIVING PEOPLE BACK THAT SENSE OF COMMUNITY”
VERNON - Vernon’s downtown will be alive this summer with music, sidewalk cafés, open air shopping and most importantly—people.
Avenue Market was given the go ahead by Vernon city council Tuesday and will launch May 9 on 30 Avenue. The 4-7p.m. Friday market will see downtown merchants spill onto the sidewalks and outside vendors pour into the streets.
Downtown Vernon Association executive director Lara Konkin led the initiative and says it’s a way to bring excitement, and people, to the downtown core.
“It will open peoples’ eyes to what we really do have downtown,” Konkin says.
Avenue market will stretch along sidewalks spanning the entire six blocks of 30 Avenue, while two blocks will be closed to traffic so vendors can inhabit the roadways. It will be the only market in Vernon where you can shop for shoes, clothes, produce, listen to music and watch your kids jump on a bouncy castle.
“It’s almost creating that shopping mall mentality in a couple blocks of downtown,” Konkin says. “That’s something no other market can offer; there is only one downtown.”
Sidewalk space will be reserved for downtown merchants both on and off 30 Avenue while the road itself will be used for produce stands, artisans, crafters—essentially anything that doesn’t directly compete with a downtown business.
“We wouldn’t sell knock off Ray Bans, or that type of vendor,” Konkin says. “We think adding outside vendors will only add to the ambience of downtown and be good for economic development.”
Vernon mayor Rob Sawatzky believes the market will be compliment downtown businesses, not compete with them.
“I think it’s another step... taken by the community to make downtown the heart of our community and bring life and vibrancy to it,” Sawatzky says. “Where there’s people interacting and life, that’s attractive to others.”
Rod Neufeld owns Eclectibles Quality Used Books and Vintage Vinyl Records on 30 Avenue and he supports the market, even if his participation in it may not be huge due to his hours of operation and nature of his business.
“Downtown Vernon is kind of hurting right now. Some businesses are doing okay, some marginal. It certainly does need energizing,” he says.
He’s not sure what vendors will participate, or just what the market will look like, but he knows how special the downtown core is and how much potential is there.
“I choose to be downtown, I think it’s where my store belongs,” Neufeld says. “I’ve always thought that’s where the cool shops should be; it wouldn’t work in a strip mall.”
It’s that local flavour Konkin and the Downtown Vernon Association hope to enhance through the Avenue Market.
“You’re giving people back that sense of community,” Konkin says. “I think we all crave that town hall, community spirit type atmosphere. Essentially we’re going to create it in a couple of blocks. The biggest comment we’ve been hearing is ‘I can’t wait to bring my family back downtown.’”
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