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Grand opening an understatement for Downtown Market

11:27 PM, Sep 2, 2013   |    comments
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Field&Fire Bakery sold out of its products a few times Monday

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- Grand Opening might be an understatement for the Grand Rapids Downtown Market.

A flood of people - nearly 30,000 - poured into the new Indoor Market on Ionia Avenue Monday.

Market spokesman Brian Burch say the rush reminded the board of the day ArtPrize launched in the city in 2009. It was supposed to be an easy day.

"We opened Labor Day because we wanted a little slower opening," said market President and CEO Mimi Fritz.

That didn't happen. Shelby Kirby with Field and Fire Bakery found he couldn't work fast enough. His 450 croissants?

"Gone within a half-hour," he said.

So he spent the day, pounding away in the upstairs kitchen of the Downtown Market.

"Trying to ferment my croissants in the fastest way possible," he said.

By late afternoon, the crowds finally settled down. It seems people also had a hunger for olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

"These behind you are fusties. We've had to consistently refill fuisties, so gallons upon, gallons, upon gallons," said Andy Groggel, with Old World Olive Press.

Old World Olive Press had to pull stock from other stores, and Malamiah Juice Bar made a Meijer run and raided City Produce, inside the market, for bananas.

"They have come to us 3 to 4 times already," said Chris Van DeGuchte," with City Produce.

But will customers continue to come back in such force?

Fritz expects it to slow down, some, but the annual goal is 500,000 people, with estimated vendor and restaurant sales at $25 million.

"We had our soft opening week, and we've seen people coming back just in that week," said Groggel.

The 19 vendors were hand-picked from nearly 300 applications, and Fritz is confident they'll deliver.

"They have a passion," she said.

"We want to keep prices low so we keep customers coming back to us," said Van DeGuchte.

And Kibler promises you won't see his "Sold Out" sign again.

"It's a good problem, it points towards potential success for us."

Some people we spoke with say a few things are pricey. Fritz says the food items cost more to raise or to grow, and the market has some products that are hard to find the Grand Rapids area, like wild salmon. She says you can't necessarily buy some of the products in a grocery store, so, be willing to pay.

The market currently has 205 parking spots. Burch says there are no plans to expand parking now, but if they continue to see larger than expected crowds, he says they will have to look at other options.

Burch says when ArtPrize kicks off in a few weeks, it will only help the downtown market. He says the market has set up a free shuttle service to bring people to and from the downtown core.

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