IOWA CITY, IOWA: (June 1, 2021) A first-of-its-kind “Diversity Market” will pop up at 611 Southgate Ave outside the Kingdom Center every Saturday from 3pm – 7pm starting June 12 and continuing through July 10 this summer. The new pilot pop up market is intended to feature fresh, homemade food from vendors such as Royceann’s Soul Food and Mama’s Chicken and Fish. The market also elevates services such as Verness Wright owner of Tax Wright and Hannah Born Photography. Additionally, the market showcases local products from emerging businesses like Nikki-Boo Kids, Art by Teagan, Artesanía de Colores, and others. The community is invited to come eat, shop, and bring the kids to enjoy family friendly-activities.
The majority of vendors are women from historically underserved populations who are working to grow their business opportunities in Iowa City. The Diversity Market event producers, local businesswoman Tasha Lard, South District Neighborhood Association President Angie Jordan, and community builder Marlén Mendoza, are working with vendors to support new entrepreneurs in the South District and find broader market appeal.
A major goal of the event producers for the Diversity Market is to bring together and elevate Black, Indigineous, People of Color and women entrepreneurs, artisans, and others looking for a spot to shine and sell their products and services. Other goals include providing a neighborhood-scale opportunity for South District residents to eat and shop in the neighborhood while attracting other Iowa City area residents to enjoy this up-and-coming side of town.
Marlén Mendoza, co-founder of the Colectivo de Mujeres en Negocios, or Collective of Women in Business, believes the Diversity Market has a lot of exciting opportunities to continue to attract local vendors and a bigger market with each event. “We’re excited to provide local food vendors and immigrant entrepreneurs with opportunities to directly sell to their community members and grow their businesses through annual community family events like the Diversity Market. This is a stepping stone in creating a potential year long market to replicate the success of Mercado on
Fifth in Moline, Illinois. We hope everyone can join us to buy local and support our local entrepreneurs.”
Tasha Lard, of JD Beauty Supply, found many vendors through the “business corner” she hosts in the corner of her shop. “I love having the business corner in my store; this allows small business owners to promote themselves by letting customers know who they are. The Diversity Market will allow those same business owners to come out and actually show the public who they are. The Diversity Market in the South District will be amazing because it will help business owners like Evelyn of Choco Fresa come out and show how amazing her sweet treats are.
Angie Jordan sees other opportunities for the pilot. “The Diversity Market will bring ‘feet to the streets’ in an area where businesses within walking distance are tough to find. There is a lot of demand for more food and goods in this area – the market and the interest on behalf of South District residents are here. This pilot will help draw attention to this demand and, as always, we’ll tweak it as we learn what works best for those willing to come together. All of this helps point to what a more formal organization, like a SSMID, could do for the South District. Furthermore, it illustrates a need for sustainable and relevant small business incubation and acceleration programs led by marginalized populations to serve marginalized populations.”
Since September 2020, a working committee of residents headed by Jordan, community organizers, and business owners with the support of the Iowa City Downtown District, have been exploring ways to further develop and revitalize Iowa City’s South District commercial area. The group’s effort entails developing what is known as a Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District, or “SSMID,” a tool for property owners and businesses within a designated geographic area to collectively spur economic development and stimulate growth while also enhancing livability and infrastructure beyond basic municipal services. In short, it is an economic investment for the community, by the community.
The location of the Diversity Market was provided by The Kingdom Center, which was one of the first properties to sign on to the SSMID petition and sees value in events in this area. Fred Newell, local pastor at the Kingdom Center and executive director of Dream City, had this to say, “There are many beautiful people and things taking place within the South District. Who wouldn’t want to support this local initiative that will only continue to make a positive impact within our community?”
Parties supporting the Diversity Market and a South District SSMID include the City of Iowa City, South District Neighborhood Association, Iowa City Area Business Partnership (formerly the Chamber of Commerce), Iowa City Area Development Group, Multicultural Development Center of Iowa, Think Iowa City (the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau), Iowa City Downtown District, Midwestone Bank, IMON Communications, Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity,
Kirkwood Community College, Shelter House, Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, Southgate Properties, and Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County.