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Lisa Vitello is the Niagara Falls City Clerk – a job that, among other things, requires her to file and keep official records for the city. In addition to her official duties, she has also created a new platform for local entrepreneurs to make money and, in doing so, recreate the kind of downtown tourist area the city had during the first half of the 20th Century.
Vitello has designed and gained City Council approval for her ‘Niagara Mist Open Air Artisan Market.”
The market, which is scheduled to open on May 1st and run until September 30th, will provide outdoor retail opportunities for some 50 vendors. Vendors will sell products from inside tents along the sidewalks of Niagara Street – from Third Street to Rainbow Boulevard – only steps from the Niagara Falls State Park.
The Artisan market will operate daily between 9 am and 10 pm and present an opportunity for people who want to make money this summer to run their own tourist-oriented small business.
[That opportunity is open as of press time, but you may wish to act quickly because spaces are going fast.]
“The open air market will operate in view of the millions of tourists who visit the heart of our city every year,” said Vitello. “This market, or something like it, has been on my mind for quite some time. We were once a city that thrived because of our small businesses and small-town ambiance. I wanted to reconnect to that.
“I travel to different towns and cities all the time,” Vitello continued, “and constantly see artisan markets or farmers markets filled with people. It’s the kind of environment that we hope to start with our very own market.”
Vitello said her vision is one of bright white tents lining Niagara Street, an idea she said she borrowed from the Lewiston Arts Festival on Center Street.
“It’s very attractive,” she said, “and almost compels you to want to walk and find out what is in each one. That’s what I want for our market.”
The location for the open-air market, between Third Street and Rainbow Blvd. along Niagara Street, she said is strategic since it leads tourists to the various restaurants and eateries on Third Street.
Unlike, the ill-fated Holiday Market – of a few years ago – that cost the city some $500,000 and the profits all fell into the hands of one developer from Idaho – the Artisan Market is meant for locals and will not cost taxpayers anything.
The Reporter sat down with City Clerk Vitello to gain a better understanding of the market she envisions.
Where did the name “Niagara Mist Open Air Artisan Market” come from?
Vitello: It definitely is a unique name, but that’s what makes it so special. It pairs our biggest asset – the falls – with the mist tourists will see in the air behind them as they shop and the variety of products they will be looking at.
What is a vendor?
Vitello: First and foremost, this is not a flea market. We want whatever is sold – whether it be photographs, paintings, jewelry, pottery, vintage.
Although there is a prohibition on selling food, not all merchandise has to be related to Niagara Falls. We feel it’s not only important to highlight our city, but also Western New York. So as long as the merchandise has some connection to either Niagara Falls or the region, and is something that people would look for when shopping, and especially those shopping from out of town, it will be considered.
How do I apply to become a vendor?
Vitello: All you need to do is stop in at City Hall, 745 Main Street, Niagara Falls, New York 14301, and go to the City Clerk’s office, and get an informational packet and application.
We have a packet with all of the information you will need, There is even a map for you to choose which spot they want along the street.
Is there a cost to apply and what is the fee to operate for the season?
Vitello: The application to become a vendor is free. However, if you are approved there is a one-time $1,500 license fee that goes to the City of Niagara Falls. It covers the whole season. There are no other fees nor is there a percentage of profits that a vendor will have to share with the city. Whatever you make is yours to keep.
What should you bring when applying?
Vitello: In addition to the completed application, an applicant should show photos of the products you want to sell.
There is also a requirement that tents must be white and vendors must provide their own tents.
Why can’t food be sold?
Vitello: Although some edibles like chocolate are acceptable to sell, I do not want the market to sell food that could take away from already existing restaurants, We have amazing restaurants and bars on Third Street and throughout downtown.
That was part of the plan. The market goes all the way to the corner of Third St. and it’s our hope that people will look down Third Street and explore what restaurants there are and then support one of them, or multiple small businesses by eating there.
How will rules on vendors can/cannot sell be enforced? What resources do vendors have if there is an issue?
Vitello: There will be different entities, such as the Department of Public Works, the person from the new tourism position that was created in partnership with Destination Niagara, and my office, that will work together to help ensure everything is running smoothly.
In terms of resources, there will be a lot of help for vendors if they run into any problems or issues. I want each vendor to feel as though they are our partner and that we are invested in their success. After all, if they are successful, so is the City.
I believe this will be something that people will walk to, something that people will travel to, and something that will provide a fun, new outdoor shopping experience in an area traditionally seen as a tourist district.