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Cleveland City Council approves funds to hire consultants for West Side Market

West Side Market
Posted at 1:56 PM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 19:12:06-05

CLEVELAND — The City of Cleveland has hired consultants to help reshape the West Side Market customer experience.

Don Whitaker began working at the West Side Market at the age of 13 before opening his own business, D.W. Whitaker meats.

"I'm a vendor down there for 30 years now," Whitaker said. "Things have changed and a lot of people have aged out and retired."

City council has set aside $137,000 to pay the consultants. It’s one of several ways the city is trying to help struggling vendors inside the historic market.

Whitaker said outside intervention is necessary to repair the reputation of the market.

"You had three generations and that whole baby boomer generation is gone and where they missed the ball was when they didn't replace them," Whitaker said. "I'm excited about it because obviously something is not being run correctly. It's very obvious."

Earlier this year, the City of Cleveland altered operating hours in an effort to accommodate customers in early evening.

It also waived rent for April, May and June to offset the impacts of COVID-19.

Every year, the market sees more than 1 million visitors, but Whitaker said overall sales are down with only 62 operating vendors.

"You have all this opportunity. The neighborhood's booming down there," Whitaker said. "There's no reason it should be like this, except it comes down to the management."

In the past, vendors have complained about the market’s clogged drains, faulty electrical outlets and leaky sinks.

"They realize their weaknesses and they have to if they want the place to sustain the next hundred years," Whitaker said. "They're going to have to do something different."

City council has acknowledged the problems that have led to some longtime vendors shutting down.

"Moving forward with the replace of the arcade door, we've done a thorough assessment, doing an assessment of the electrical concerns in the structure itself- the power supply itself and all the internal infrastructure," said Darnell Brown, chief operating officer for the City of Cleveland.

The city has plans to spend about $15 million on upgrades to the market, but it first plans to review the physical aspects of the building to find out if there are any changes that need to be made to the building.

"I think it's in the best interest of the taxpayers that we figure out what's wrong, get the building at capacity, get it making money again and move on from there," Whitaker said.

RELATED: West Side Market vendors adjust to continue delivering their specialties to local customers

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