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Public Market Vendors Prepare For Next Step

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Mora McLaughlin
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90.5 WESA
Vendors are preparing to leave the Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District. It's preparing to close at the end of the month.

More than a dozen vendors have scrambled to find new locations, as the Pittsburgh Public Market prepares to shut its doors at the end of the month. 

The market opened in its current Penn Avenue location in the Strip District in 2013, when it moved from the Produce Terminal on Smallman Street. 

Pittsburgh Public Market General Manager Rich Westerfield said the owner of the building decided not to renew the market's lease.

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Credit Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA
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90.5 WESA
Bakers prepare rows of donuts for Gluten Free Goat's wholesale operation.

Jeanette Harris, who owns Gluten Free Goat, said fortunately the public market only accounts for a small portion of her revenue, but she used the space to do her wholesale baking. Harris said she’ll be moving the business to Garfield, because she’s priced out of any other Strip District locations.

“I love the Strip District,” she said, “but unless you have capital coming from somewhere that’s endless, it’s really hard to have a new, small business in the Strip District.”

Eric Earnest, who owns Ohio City Past Pittsburgh, said his business is taking a bigger hit, with about 50 percent of his revenue coming from the market. Earnest said he’s found two new locations – he'll be re-opening in the Strip and on the North Side – but it wasn't until recently that he was able to find those spots.

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Essential Pittsburgh's Paul Guggenheimer talks with Pittsburgh Public Market director Rich Westerfield on Feb. 18.

Westerfield said all but one of the 18 vendors have found new locations -- many of them in the Strip. That means consumers will still be able to find the goods provided by the public market vendors, but Westerfield said the market, in its current form, won't exist again in the future. He said he doesn't know if another version of the public market could open again, without backing from the city. 

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Credit Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA
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90.5 WESA
The sign at Ohio City Pasta Pittsburgh's booth in the Public Market.

Harris disagreed.  

"I believe in a Pittsburgh Public Market," she said. "I think it needs to happen and I think the city would love it. It just needs to be executed correctly." 

Though Earnest and Harris said they’re disappointed to leave the market, they enjoyed the experience of working with other vendors in a communal environment.

“The best part has really been having relationships with other vendors,” said Harris. “Because we’re all, most of us are very new to this, if not just a couple years in, and so to have that support network is huge … whenever I would come in, I would be able to work out an idea and just get great advice, or even just like a hug, or whatever you’re looking for that day.”

The Pittsburgh Public Market is expected to close Feb. 28. Several events are planned for the weekends leading up to its closure. 

WESA fellow Mora McLaughlin contributed to this story. 

Sarah Kovash connects 90.5 WESA listeners with the station's online content and social media platforms.
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