Feb. 18—The Kokomo Farmers' Market Store is undergoing an expansion, one that its leaders say will allow the store to offer more items and fulfill a longtime goal of offering a community kitchen.
The store is expected to begin operating out of 115 W. Sycamore St., the former Boondocks Wine and Spirits location, at the beginning of next month, the market's manager Adrienne Akers Partlow told the Tribune. The current market store will remain open through the end of this month.
The new space will significantly increase the square footage of the market store — nearly three times as big, Akers Partlow said.
"We can't fit any more vendors. We can't make any more food," she said of the market's current building. "We can't do any more in this space, and we want to be able to do more."
The new space will allow the market to stock and sell more food and handmade items from its vendors and allow for more dine in for its own food it sells. The store's current space allows for just one table.
"People who are wanting to meet a friend or have a business lunch, we can't really accommodate more than one party, so now we'll be able to fit several more tables and chairs in there," Akers Partlow said.
The building also includes a much bigger kitchen for the store to be able to create and sell more hot food.
But having a commercial kitchen will also solve one of the market's biggest issues: having a space for those who want to sell their food at the farmers' market or in the market store but don't have the space or money to do so.
The kitchen will also allow the organization to hold community events where people can learn how to cook, how to make cheese, bread and even brew beer.
"There's all kinds of opportunity in that [new] space," Akers Partlow said.
The farmers' market will occupy more than half, but not the whole, building. Hoyt Alexander, who purchased the building in 2019, said there are project plans for the remaining space but said he's not ready to announce what it is just yet.
"I'm excited to see [this building] return to good use," he said in a release. "I think a farmers' market is a good boost because it's so community oriented."
The Kokomo Farmers' Market opened its downtown market store in March of 2019 as part of the organization's yearslong effort to fill the food desert that is the downtown area after Walgreens and Marsh closed.
Since that time, demand for the market store and fresh, local food has grown.
But it's not just about the food.
"It's also about community building and making Kokomo and Howard County a place people want to go, want to live in and want to stay at," Akers Partlow said. "It's for people to start their hopes and dreams at, and the market is such a great place to do that."
The outdoor farmers' market is slated to open May 1 at its regular location at the intersection of Mulberry and Washington streets. It will be the market's 20th year.
Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich