Jasmine Banks, owner of Perfect Imperfections, is on board now so she’ll be ready as a vendor when the Madison Public Market opens in late 2021. 

She’s excited about participating in the market because, “I appreciate the intentionality of the Market wanting to be diverse and inclusive to both small and more established businesses in the same space,” Jasmine notes. “I’m not sure where else that is happening in the business world in Madison.”

The Madison Public Market, on a slow burner for many years, steadily moves towards fruition. After a thorough remodel/repurpose for a Fall of 2021 opening, the City Fleet Services building on the corner of First and East Johnson Streets will reveal itself as the city’s center for exotic foods, creative crafts, handcrafted artwork, jewelry, wearables, and collectibles.

The Friends of the Madison Public Market and Madison Public Market Foundation provide leadership to the project development. The City of Madison provides the building.

A priority of achieving equity and inclusiveness within the market is baked into the mission of the project. The Madison Public Market Foundation is striving to establish a vendor mix containing at least 25% people of color, women, and first-generation immigrants. 

Links for Further Information

Madison Public Market

Friends of the Madison Public Market

MarketReady Madison

City of Madison Economic Development—Madison Public Market

City of Madison Bid Opportunities via Demand Star

State of Wisconsin Bid Opportunities via VendorNet

There will be more offered at the market than items for sale. The project’s plan includes art, exhibit spaces, and opportunities for diverse civic story telling as well as iconic pieces from local artists. Local design will be woven into the furniture, fixtures, and finishes of the space.

Along with stories of the Ho Chunk Nation’s historic settlement along the Yahara River, market artwork will highlight early African American settlers who first lived and raised families in the Dayton, Mifflin, and Williamson Street area.

Included will be the history and contributions that these early settlers made to food offerings and culture. One fascinating story to be explored is that of J. Scott Mosely, a Black man who along with operating a restaurant, offered Madison’s first food cart, selling tamales.

The contribution of Hmong farmers to the local agriculture systems and food culture, as well as Latinx chefs and restauranteurs who help define the area’s food landscape will all be featured in market displays and artwork.

To help assure the success of several small and first time business owners, the market’s MarketReady program provides training and micro-grants to many interested in becoming market vendors. While the application period for the first cohort of participants closed in July of 2017, the program is accepting applications to be added to a waitlist for the program from any small business in the eight-county Madison region, including Dane, Columbia, Dodge, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Rock, and Sauk counties, with priority given to City of Madison residents.

In 2017 MarketReady received 83 applications to fill 30 spots. Participant demographics include:

  • 27 % Asian
  • 33 % Black
  • 33 % first generation immigrants
  • 33 % Latinx
  • 63 % women

For those small business owners currently enrolled in the program, such as Perfect Imperfections owner Jasmine Banks, it’s a welcome helping hand to their success.

“I imagine at most places and spaces, once you sign on the dotted line you are on your own. That is not the feeling that I get from the Madison Public Market at all,” notes Jasmine, whose company offers handcrafted natural goods for body and home.

Jasmine continues, “As a member of the MarketReady program the resources and support they provide have been worth their weight in gold to help prepare me to get into and sustain being in the market. In addition, the program offers a supportive family feel.

“Also, I love the location. I have lived in this neighborhood my entire life and still reside in the house that I was born and raised in, which is within walking distance from the future home of the Madison Public Market. 

Judy McNeal, owner of QB’s Magnetic Creations says, “The Market is not only providing me a space to sell my products. It is instrumental in helping me formulate a plan so that I am successful from the beginning.”

QB’s Magnetic Creations sells magnetic badge holders, eyeglass holders, brooches, and the newest addition, magnetic jewelry strings.

She continues, ““I will have a fixed space that allows me to meet my customers where they are at. I am provided with so many resources — from business coaches, business trips, seminars, classes, and most importantly. I get to work with individuals who want to see me succeed. All of this ensures that I am laying the foundation for success. You can’t get that anywhere else. The market is not just a venue. It is a journey and I’m enjoying the ride.”

Remodeling of the 65-year-old Fleet Services building is slated to begin in Fall of 2020. The City of Madison owns and is responsible for the building’s renovation. Construction and related type business owners who are interested in bidding on the market renovation and future construction portions of the project can keep tabs on City of Madison Requests for Proposals (RFPs) by following VendorNet and DemandStar. The city has adopted a local preference purchasing policy. All bidders must be registered to submit bids.

Sometimes the best things come to those who wait. In the case of the long-coming Madison Public Market that seems to be the case.

It’s also true that the best things come to those willing to take the risk, are willing to learn, and lead with their passion. As Judy McNeal notes, “There is no place in Madison that showcases successful minority business owners — especially Black women. It is so important for people in our community — especially our youth — to see that a dream can become a reality. It is important for them to know that Black business ownership is a possibility. If they believe it, they can achieve.

“I want to be on the forefront of paving the way for them. I have learned many things on this journey. It does me no good if I can’t share it by way of educating others. The market helps me to that.

“For me, it’s bigger than making money. It’s about doing the right thing for the community. Ultimately, it’s about leaving a legacy of hope.”