Market on Main

OTTUMWA — Market on Main is closing at the end of this month after nearly eight years in operation.

“The change at the Market is kind of a natural piece of the entire downtown renovation that we’re a part of,” said Steve Dust, CEO of the Legacy Foundation. “It’s going to be even more important in some way — we don’t know what that is yet, but our point is to look at what’s already happened and what is happening in the downtown Main Street corner.”

The Market’s closure has been in the works since September, when the Legacy Foundation, which owns and operates it, put the building up for sale.

The main problem was the Market’s lack of profitability. After the Market opened in 2012, the Legacy Foundation assumed more and more of the financial burden of keeping it operational as different investors stopped their support.

“The incubator was not designed to make a profit,” said a Legacy Foundation press release. “The goal was to build an increasing number of new food options and businesses operating in lower-cost space with excellent equipment available to share, and then move to their own space over time.”

Dust said the Market’s model was based on business incubators in other communities. While none were designed to turn a profit, the Market lacked the amount of business required to justify the cost of operation.

“That is a quality corner,” Dust said. “We want a quality buyer putting a quality operation there — something that will really become another anchor. The kind of operation that’s in there isn’t as important as its quality and what it adds to the downtown environment.”

The announcement was made on the Market on Main’s Facebook page Tuesday night. The comments were a mix of sadness and frustration, but there were also a number of heartfelt goodbyes.

“This has been a great asset to Downtown Ottumwa and an inspiration for many other communities. Well done and a big THANK YOU to everyone who made this successful,” user Diane Richardson said in a reply to the original post.

“Such an amazing place! Very sad that this helpful venue is closing its doors,” said Facebook user James Draper in another reply. “All the best to you and thank you for having me be a tiny part of everything you’ve done there.”

In some ways, the Market’s closure is helping fulfill its original vision of being a small business incubator. Several of the vendors are now moving into physical locations. Ohana Grill, a Hawaiian barbecue restaurant, is opening a location at 311 E. Main St. Scratch Filipino Cuisine is moving into Main Street Donuts, another business that began at the Market.

Burritos Los Roy, one of the Market’s oldest vendors, has a less certain future. The owner and operator, Reynaldo Royval, is torn between moving into a physical location, changing his restaurant into a food truck or retiring.

Some other venues around town have agreed to host the Market’s more popular events. The Market’s wine tasting nights will now be held at Bridge View Center, and its trivia nights at Hotel Ottumwa and Uncle Buck’s Bar and Grill. Pallister Brothers Brewery will start holding open mic nights. Some of the Market’s regular performers will move to Pallister, Appanoose Rapids and the Eagles Lodge.

“We appreciate that people are as attached to the current operation as they’ve become. But what we think is cool is that it’s just going somewhere else,” said Dust. “When we opened, we didn’t have those other places. We were the place. And so as a part of the redevelopment process, and people realizing on their own that there’s promise in the downtown, these places have opened up. I think that’s a win.”

The Market on Main’s final day of operation will be Dec. 27, 2019. Kevin McGinity, a local performer, will play the last happy hour set at 5:30 p.m. He will be followed at 8 p.m. by Hieland Storm, another local band, for the Market’s final live performance. There will be a $5 cover charge.

Jack Langland can be reached at jlangland@ottumwacourier.com.

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