The news that the Downtown Joplin Alliance is pursuing a renovation plan for the Empire Market building is exciting and could increase the already impressive potential of the young marketplace.
The plan and architectural designs would be used to launch a capital campaign for an upgrade to include the installation of a commercial and teaching kitchen and the addition of a farmers pavilion, classrooms and a conference center to the building originally donated to the group by Empire District Electric Co., now Liberty Utilities-Empire District.
The group has been operating with weekly markets on Saturdays since April 2018 and recently held its first evening market, a summer solstice event that drew an estimated crowd of 1,200 to 1,500 people, market coordinator Ivy Hagedorn said. We think the success of the event is a harbinger of things to come.
The market benefits farmers and market gardeners by providing customers through direct access to the public. It helps Joplin consumers by providing access to locally grown produce within walking distance to some neighborhoods without grocers. “Most of our food travels an average of 9 miles to the market,” Hagedorn told the Globe in August. “In a grocery store, that food travels an average of 1,200 miles. That makes a big difference in taste and how long it lasts.”
Empire Market serves as a gathering place, an art fair, an artisan craft market and a farmers market. It is a boon to the economic and cultural environment of Joplin. The market is close enough to downtown along the Fourth Street corridor that it contributes to our surging downtown energy.
The market helps develop and support business ventures that are rooted in our local community. These renovations would further that. They include a proposed commercial kitchen that could help farmers develop value-added products such as pickles, salsas, jellies, jams and spice blends. It could offer growers the opportunity to extend their productive season.
The expanded building could provide more workspace, workshops, business connections and increased access to customers. Most of these benefits are to small local producers and businesses. Small businesses are a driving force for new job creation and a boost to the Joplin economy.
Our community has a boon in the Empire Market. The contemplated renovation and expansion should enhance that.
We look forward to seeing the plan and to the launch of the capital campaign.