CLEVELAND — Kaitie Nickels moved to Cleveland 5 years ago, and when she was exploring what to do in her new city, the West Side Market was one of her first stops.
“This is a beautiful building. It has so much history and so much character,” she said.
But she didn’t just love the character of the building, she loved the characters inside of it.
“I love seeing the different cultures under one roof, sharing what they have to offer with the world,” said Nickels.
She fell in love with her new city, and started taking photographs of it. She amassed a following on Instagram and, from there, started her media and merchandise company Cleveland Vibes.
The company is devoted to helping nonprofits and small businesses within Cleveland.
Nickels called it "conscious capitalism." When she heard one of her favorite places in the city needed help, she and her team decided to help.
“We had noticed that there were things that needed repairs. We had noticed that some of the vendor booths were empty, but we didn’t realize how little funds were being allocated towards the repairs,” she said.
Longtime vendors at the market have voiced their frustrations over much-needed repairs for years.
“It is definitely out of control, duct tape is not working anymore. Things need to be fixed,” said Brian Foster of Foster’s Meats.
Foster said the plumbing and electric in the 109-year-old building need to be overhauled.
“It’s fighting tooth and nail to get anything from the city,” he said.
Don Whitaker of D.W. Meats and the tenant association president said the city keeps kicking the can down the road when it comes to repairs the building needs.
“My refrigeration went down a couple of weeks ago, before the power failure, and I lost the whole Wednesday's worth of business. That's one instance, but there are hundreds of those,” he said.
At this point, he said tenants are just hoping a new mayor can put the market on a new path.
"A new mayor can change everything, everything that the Jackson administration put aside,” said Whitaker.
But in the meantime, Nickels’ company, Cleveland Vibes, wants to help.
This week, the company started selling "Save the West Side Market" T-shirts. All of the proceeds from the shirt sales will go to Ohio City Inc., and Nickels said they will allocate the money to a West Side Market repair fund.
“We know it’s a gigantic bill to fix a market like this. It’s not cheap,” she said. “But we just wanted to raise awareness to the fact that the funds need to go here.”
Nickels hopes it sends a message to city leaders.
“It needs to be a priority,” she said.
And tenants hope it does, too.
“We’re very grateful that people care that much about it,” said Whitaker.
If you’d like to purchase a "Save the West Side Market" shirt CLICK HERE.