Little Italy market returns for holidays

Boel Marcks von Würtemberg, Centretown News

Boel Marcks von Würtemberg, Centretown News

The first annual Christmas market on Preston Street in Little Italy will be open every Saturday in December until Christmas.

Little Italy is hosting its first annual Christmas Farmer’s Market this month, in another step toward the goal of making weekly outdoor sales a permanent fixture in the neighbourhood.

Preston Street BIA executive director Lori Mellor says this month’s market follows an extremely successful fall event, the first of its kind in newly revitalized Little Italy.

“We kept getting such great feedback about the fall market that we thought we might as well keep going and see what happens,” says Mellor.

The Christmas market, which runs the first three Saturdays of December on Preston Street across from the Adult High School soccer field, will feature 10 to 16 vendors.

The notion of a farmer’s market in Little Italy grew out of a need for amenities in the area, says Mellor, as well as an increasing interest in locally grown, organic food.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to walk to the main street and get everything done in one stop?” she says.

Market organizer Chris Penton says the main goal of the market is to bring grocery items to the area and allow residents to do all their shopping at once.

With local produce and meat, as well as Christmas gifts and ornaments, Penton says he hopes the market will make people look at Little Italy differently.

“We want the area to be one known for its restaurants, shops, amenities and local market,” says Penton.

While Penton says he hopes to eventually see a daily market in the area, the immediate plan is for a market beginning in June 2011 and running weekly until Thanksgiving.

Mellor calls the plan a response to a demand in the neighbourhood, caused by changing demographics.

“People in the neighbourhood are becoming more concerned with what they are eating,” says Mellor. “They’re beginning to feel that it is important to buy local and eat organic.”

Vendor Chris Hall, of Hall’s Apple Market in Brockville, Ont., says he, too, has noticed people asking more questions about what they are putting into their bodies.

“They want to know how we produce our food, whether it’s organic and about our business practices,” says Hall. “There has definitely been a trend recently to go back to small farming.”

 With a growing embrace of the values of local production and consumption, Hall says the market should bring a sense of community and closeness to the neighbourhood.

“When you look into the eyes of the guy who grew your food, it gives you a sense of security and faith in the product you are eating,” says Hall.

Organizers and vendors agree that the market will benefit not only local residents, but also the other businesses along Preston Street and throughout Little Italy.

“The market will allow us to show off our newly beautified main street and hopefully bring people out to some of our shops and restaurants,” says Mellor. “We’re always looking for ways to animate the neighbourhood and give people reasons to come out and visit us.”

Penton, who has organized numerous farmer’s markets, says Little Italy’s market stands out from others in the city.

“It’s different as far as markets go in this city,” says Penton. “Lansdowne is huge, with hundreds of vendors and Byward might as well be a mall with all the stuff they sell. Little Italy has a smaller, more local feel and a unique flavour.”

To the west of Little Italy is Ottawa’s Parkdale Market, one of only two city-run permanent markets in the city, which also features local products.

Mellor says she hopes this market will be a success, and will soon become a permanent part of the neighbourhood.

“It’s very typical of an Italian village to have a weekly market,” says Mellor. “And what we really want is to connect our neighbours to the main street.”