The unique vendors, freshly-prepared food, beautiful park setting, live local entertainment and community support have all contributed to the phenomenal success of the new Griffith Central Market, organizer Kathy Ruesken said.
She admits being a little worried a few weeks before it opened.
“Four weeks before the opening day, I had only seven vendors signed up,” Ruesken said. “But by the time we were ready to go, there were at least 20 on board. We are now at 38 vendors and I respond to at least two inquiries a day.” Ruesken said in addition to local vendors, Central Market participants come from Michigan and Illinois.
“There are a few vendors who are first timers, they are Griffith folks and they are doing well,” Ruesken said. “We don't grant space to direct sale type businesses and are always searching for that which is unique and artistic and well prepared with fresh ingredients. Our philosophy is, if we build it well, those types of artisans will hear about it and desire to be a part of it. If we build it well, the people will come to enjoy it.”
Ruesken said that on the surface Griffith Central Market looks pretty much like any other area market with food vendors and craft vendors.
“But what makes this market unique is the beautiful park setting,” she said. “Most markets are set up in a parking lot or on a street. In the Central Market all the vendors are in the grass under the shade of the tall oak trees along a winding walk path.”
The park pavilion houses the "garden" where visitors can enjoy a crafted beer or a glass of imported wine while they dine on one of the many ready-to-eat food selections. In the “garden,” Ruesken said, people can enjoy the sounds of live local music which changes weekly. Families are welcome in the “garden.”
“We welcome organizations in town to participate in the market for fund raising,” Ruesken said.
Regular vendors include: Rolling Stonebaker Pizza; Ben's Soft Pretzel; Cliff's Natural Pork Chops; Festive Foods Pierogies; Organic Grounds; Taste & See; Capricorn Foods; Stamper Cheese; Jill Marie's; Wilk's Ware; Early Bird Food Truck; Panos Farms; Flagel's Sugar House; Mescolare; Lady's Caramel Corn; GrindHouse Café; Tiffany's Tea Room; Planted Memories; Optimistic Artist; Simply Salsa; Sinfully Delicious Brownies; Cookielicious; Relamp Composting; "AY CHIHUAHUA'S; The Scoville Brothers Hot Sauce; Tiffany's Gourmet Hot Dogs; Smokin' Hickory Chips; Nature's Bounty; The Divine Chef; Reudotlyn Jewelry; Thomas Photography; Crafty Colors; and Timbrook Kitchens.
The music line-up for September is: Sept. 6 Wise Guys; Sept. 13 Mark&Regina; and Sept. 27 Jason Jaks.
On Aug. 30, the Central Market will be joining the Rock&Rail Fest.
“We decided that it only made sense to move the market five blocks south and be a part of an event that is made up of food, music, and ale,” Ruesken said.
Griffith residents have been supportive of the Central Market.
“The reaction from the good folks of Griffith is beyond anything I could have imagined,” Ruesken said. “We had two full months of rotten weather, either cold, cold and rainy, or warm with torrential rains and yet these wonderful people kept coming out. The vendors have been amazed at how supportive the people of Griffith have been. I think that is another aspect about this market that makes it unique.”
Ruesken said from its inception her desire has been to create an experience that delights all the senses and combines all the wonderful things that Griffith has to offer in one location on one very casual day of the week.
“I wanted to do this for the people in my town to bring people together, to give everyone a sense of community,” Ruesken said. “My hope is that the market helps to bring attention to this most wonderful town which is experiencing revitalization. We are a small town that is land locked. We have nowhere to grow but from the inside and we have much to offer.”
The idea for a market was a result of a study conducted by fourth year undergraduate students from Ball State University under the direction of their professor.
“They studied the town of Griffith from every angle and aspect and came up with a comprehensive plan that the town might implement for improvement,” Ruesken said. “A grass roots committee was formed under the title Imagine Griffith.
“I am a member of that group and started to imagine Griffith with a farmer's market,” Ruesken said. “
Ruesken spent last summer visiting various markets from Chesterton to Frankfort Illinois and talking to vendors to get a feel for what they liked and disliked about the different markets.
“One suggestion was that the market should be on a Friday afternoon into the evening,” Ruesken said. “So that was my starting point. I laid out a plan and presented it to the town council and upon their approval the journey began.”
Ruesken said her group wanted to move away from the traditional Farmers’ market concept basically because she couldn't find a farmer who could commit to a Friday market
“We decided to focus mostly on food that can be eaten at the market and food that's packaged to take home from the market,” Ruesken said. “But it had to be good quality food and food that wasn't always available at the markets nearby. We knew when the Rolling Stonebaker wood fired pizza truck signed on that we were onto something wonderful. And it just kept getting better.”
Ruesken said her goal is to continue to develop Central Market into a regional event that attracts visitors from all around.