Kenosha HarborMarket benefits consumers and entrepreneurs alike

Larry Zamba, Contributing writer

At times, there are more than 10,000 people walking through Kenosha’s HarborMarket, listening to musicians, sampling food and purchasing arts and crafts from some 200 vendors under tents. It’s no grocery store.

And that’s nice. As someone who has been to the market many times, I guarantee you can count on a great experience. You can buy asparagus bundles for just a buck. Get organic honey fresh from the hive. Buy a variety of food dips and chips. Acquire hand-pressed soap. Meet friends or make new ones. Even haggle over prices.

And with no political, religious, or point-of-view booths there, the HarborMarket can make life a bit more pleasant for five hours on a Saturday.

“The market is modeled after a European-style market,” says chairperson Ray Fiorgianni. “There are no vehicles and thus a much more vibrant atmosphere than guys selling produce off the back of a truck,”

Fiorgianni’s been with HarborMarket since its inception in 2001: “It began as a city project with 18 vendors and by the season’s end it was 36.”

He says the market continues to attract new vendors, growing 10-20 percent each year.

Fiorgianni sees the HarborMarket as a boon not only for consumers, but for vendors and their employees. “We’re producers and employers who create jobs, and we think the HarborMarket is a pretty powerful tool,” he says. “It’s essentially a job factory.”

One attraction is the low fees for vendors. If you are in the agricultural business, sell processed foods (cookies, for example,) or are a self-crafting artist, the fee is just $40, with discounts available for seasonal spaces. Nonprofits get an even better deal. Fiorgianni says the market waives their fee. The only real start-up costs are products, market materials and a white pop-up tent, along with an employee or two.

The low barrier to entry means the HarborMarket is often a test site for businesses. Without having to buy or rent a location, entrepreneurs can take a chance without losing a lot of money if an idea falls flat.

But HarborMarket has had many success stories over the years. Ice cream parlor and candy store Sandy Poppers went from a tent to a storefront, as did Ambrosia Juice Company and Ellie Mae’s Canning & Pies. Other vendors, like Pinn-Oak Ridge Farms and WisConian Delectables, now distribute goods throughout Kenosha County. And Fiorgianni doesn’t think they’ll be the last to expand. “I can see some of our vendors now that could be in restaurants or supplying grocery stores.”

Expansion plans are underway. Fiorgianni’s organization has opened another outdoor market called WestoshaMarket along Highway 50 in Bristol, at the former site of Farmer Brown’s Nursery and the Haunted Barn. And a feasibility study is in the works to take the market indoors, by building a permanent structure. 

KenoshaMarket hours are Saturdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The market is on Second Avenue between 54th and 56th streets behind the Kenosha Public Museum and the Civil War Museum. The WestoshaMarket is open Wednesday 3-7:30 p.m. through Aug. 26. From October to May, the KenoshaMarket moves to the Rhode Center for the Arts, 514 56th St. Visit kenoshaharbormarketplace.com or westoshamarket.com for more details and maps.