French Market coming to Niles in June

Published 5:51 am Thursday, April 13, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - A classic European tradition is making its way to Niles. Beginning in June, downtown Niles will host a weekly French-style market along Main Street.
Niles Main Street French Market, A Bensidoun-USA French Market opens Thursday, June 15 and will continue every Thursday through October 26, Program Manager for Niles Main Street, Lisa Croteau said.
The Bensidoun markets are known for offering a wide range of goods, including gourmet foods, organic meats, and vegetables, as well as a mix of craftspeople, jewelers and artisans. Croteau said the Niles market will feature a regular mix of produce, plants and quality crafts from local artisans.
Vendors will not be chosen on a first-come, first-serve basis. Instead, Croteau said anyone interested in operating a booth will be asked to fill out and sign a Bensidoun-USA vendor application. The document will be reviewed by the co-chairs of the Niles Main Street Promotion Committee, Chickie Landgraf and Meg Truesdell, and will leave final approval to Bensidoun-USA.
Croteau also said businesses in downtown Niles will be considered before out-of-town vendors selling similar merchandise.
All vendor products must be suitable for a family audience as well.
Thursday's were chosen to avoid conflicting with other markets in the area and with Bensidoun-USA markets in the Chicago area, she said.
Bensidoun-USA is a familiar market company in Chicago and currently owns and operates 12 markets in that metropolitan region. Co-owners Rolland and Sebastien Bensidoun visited Niles earlier this year and found downtown to be a great site for their first non-metropolitan market location, Croteau said. The Bensidoun's found Riverfront Square to be an ideal spot for the markets, but Croteau said a definite site has not been determined.
Given the distance between Niles and Bensidoun's other markets, Croteau said the Niles Downtown Development Authority Main Street Board has voted to accept a 10-year contract from the company to make the market possible.
The DDA will pay Bensidoun-USA $16,000 the first year and $12,000 each additional year, which can be paid in six equal installments, Croteau said. Included in the cost is rented equipment - such as canopies - technical assistance and some advertising guarantees.
Croteau said Bensidoun-USA French Market will include Niles Main Street when attracting 3,000 vendors as well as customers to all of their U.S. market locations. And, it will allow Niles Main Street to use the Bensidoun-USA French Market name.
Niles Main Street can opt out of the contract after the third or fifth year and owe Bensidoun-USA $30,000 or $25,000, respectively. Croteau said a local anonymous supporter has already agreed to donate $12,000 for the market's first year.
Croteau said if the market has 20 vendors for 20 weeks at $20 per vendor, the market will earn $8,000. At the least, Croteau said if Niles gets 10 vendors for 20 weeks at $20 each, the remaining $4,000 necessary to cover the first year of the contract will be made.
The amount of traffic through downtown Niles and the population of the Michiana region should provide a large enough base to make the markets a success. Croteau said around 11,000 to 15,000 cars pass through downtown Niles everyday and the number of people living in southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana is close to one million.
For insurance purposes, Croteau said Niles Mayor Michael McCauslin is in contact with the city's insurer, MML. If MML can not help, she added the broker for Bensidoun-USA could cover the market for around $600 per year.
For information on the Niles Main Street French Market, including how to apply as a vendor, contact Lisa Croteau of Niles Main Street at (269) 687-4332.