By MARK NEWMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — After years of planning, scrubbing and painting, Market on Main opened Wednesday afternoon.
"I was surprised when I walked in," said Adam Prose, president of the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce's red-jacketed ambassadors. "I've never been in here; This is really nice."
Organizers say they love hearing that, since that's not what people were saying 10 years ago. The building, at the corner of Main and Jefferson streets, passed from one short-lived business to the next. Most of the time, it was an empty building, and the word "eyesore" was bandied about.
Wednesday afternoon, the completely renovated Market on Main was packed.
At the Market, vendors and sights included a deli that also scoops ice cream, a juice bar with ultra-healthy options, a bakery with somewhat less healthy options, a place for vegetables grown in area gardens, crafts, a couple of huge, colorful paintings, cupcakes from an area business and plants set out on wooden tables.
Prose pointed out a man who was selling rabbit meat. Prose works — and lives — in downtown Ottumwa. He and his fellow Chamber ambassadors hosted a ribbon cutting for the Market around lunchtime. Many people bought lunch, others stopped at the coffee bar.
"I had read about the opening in the paper, but honestly, I'd forgotten it was today," said Lucy Starr of Ottumwa. "I was swimming at the YMCA and a friend told me she'd come out here in the morning."
The friend, she said, enjoyed her visit to Market on Main, and had something to eat while exploring.
"I hadn't had lunch, so I thought I'd come and see," Starr said. "This is so nice. And the Chicago dog was excellent."
The sushi, too, may have been excellent. All anyone could say about it was that it was well received. Very well received: "It sold out in the first hour," said Heather Ware, director of Market on Main.
That locally made delicacy is brought in from a sushi restaurant in Fairfield.
"I've seen people eating lunch, and some [using] their laptop — we have Wi-Fi here," Ware said.
The lot between Market on Main and Second Street has now been cleared of the construction material and heavy equipment that had been stationed there during renovations. After finishing her Chicago dog, Starr revealed she had no problem finding a parking place.
Tim Ware (no relation to Heather) owns Appanoose Rapids, the restaurant directly across Main Street from the Market. It seemed natural to ask whether Tim was concerned that people eating at Market on Main could take away business.
"No way, I think this is great!" he said. "It draws people."
He supports the project, and said he is certain that when you turn a formerly unsightly corner into a destination, more people show up. In fact, he said, he'd welcome another restaurant moving in as downtown continues to grow — which, he said, it will.
"This," Tim said, pointing out Market on Main, "is the beginning of a renaissance for downtown."
Ottumwa reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark