Sunday, April 22, 2001

Findlay Market takes big step forward

Large crowd of shoppers casts a vote of confidence

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Findlay Market seemed to be on the rebound Saturday as Mayor Charlie Luken and a crowd twice the normal weekend size shopped at the historic open-air market in Over-the-Rhine.

        Shoppers came from throughout the Tristate on the first weekend shopping day since rioters trashed part of the market, causing about $30,000 in damage and forcing it to close four days, including the Saturday before Easter.

        Wearing a yellow ribbon symbolizing his support, Mayor Luken talked to vendors, sipped coffee and shopped for fresh-cut flowers.

[photo] Carrying away plants purchased at Findlay Market are Shannon Smocke (left) and Elizabeth Gromaba.
(Tony Jones photo)
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        “My hope is that fans of Findlay Market will come out more,” he said. “This is the cornerstone of development in Over-the-Rhine, and it needs support. (The vendors) don't make a lot of money. They love what they do.”

        Vendors said the mayor's presence helped, but they'll need to see several busy Saturdays before they'll feel confident they can recoup the money lost in damages and canceled shopping days.

        “It remains to be seen how well we do,” said Gerry Brauckmann, a partner in Rialto Flora. But, “we have two times as many people as I would have expected.”

        Mr. Brauckmann smiled graciously as customers called out “nice to see you back” and “see ya next week.” Mr. Brauckmann said he lost 60 percent of his normal Easter weekend sales because the market closed.

        The closure was tough on Tim Heist, too. The fourth-generation owner of Heist Fish & Poultry said rioters broke into his store last week, destroying display windows and ransacking shelves. He hopes to have new windows this week.

        For now, he and wife Barb are using space in the markethouse to sell fish. On Saturday, they also held a small-scale fish fry during lunch.

        “Never ever ever” has his family scaled their operation back for this long, he said. But Saturday's crowd assured him that business soon will return to normal.

        “It's my life here. It really is,” he said. “Saturdays are very important to us. It's very comforting to know people are coming down.”

[photo] Cooking fish and chips, Derrick Clinton works Saturday in front of Heist Fish & Poultry, still boarded up for riot damage. Heist sold fish in the market house.
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        Diane Fishbein, 62, of Clifton, toted a camera with her bag of fresh produce. She came to offer support, she said, shop and take a few pictures for her children, who live in Florida and New Mexico and were upset about the riots.

        “We're market people. I'll be a regular forever,” she said.

        Findlay Market and the Mercantile Library were the first places that made Cincinnati feel like home, said Mrs. Fishbein, who moved from Philadelphia more than a decade ago.

        “I'll be a regular forever,” she said.

        A team of teen-agers, art students and art professors use the plywood boards covering damaged Findlay Market stores as canvases Saturday to paint messages of peace.


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