Borough Manager Mark Stivers said the municipality will need to operate the 9,400-square-foot facility at 15 S. Third St. for a full year to truly evaluate costs and revenue generated by the stand leases and events. Currently, the market house is operating at a loss.
"Right now, things have definitely improved and with 2023 being our first full year of management, we expect it will cost the borough about $140,000 to operate the market and hope to generate $105,500 in revenue," Stivers said, pointing out that "the difference of about $34,500 will come out of the general fund."
He said the borough's intention is to at least get the facility to break even, but there is no date set to meet that goal.
There's a lot of work to do.
Almost all the initial 15 vendors at the market when it reopened on Memorial Day weekend 2021 after a $3.5 million renovation project have left. When it reopened, the market was open for business Wednesdays and Saturdays; however, after a few months, the borough council voted to close Wednesdays due to vendor absences, a move that also played a role in some of the vendors moving on.
To make matters worse, the market's anchor restaurant, Gypsy Kitchen, permanently closed in June 2022 without fulfilling its five-year lease agreement.
"We looked at the kitchen equipment of the restaurant and came to a mutual agreement with Gypsy Kitchen where they would pay one-month's rent and would also leave the equipment behind so we wouldn't have to hold them to the full lease term," Stivers said.
About the same time, CHI St. Joseph Children's Health, which managed and operated the market house, announced that it was leaving its management role at the end of June, citing its need to focus time and resources on other mission-driven projects.
CHI, which was on its first year of a five-year agreement, was not penalized for backing out of the agreement.
"From a growth perspective, this is not a setback at all for the borough. This is an internal issue affecting the management of the market house. The importance and influence of the market to downtown businesses is still strong," Stivers said in an article published by LNP | LancasterOnline in April.