Madison Public Market Foundation Receives $4 Million Neighborhood Investment Fund Grant

Governor Tony Evers, at an event held on February 24, announced that the City of Madison will receive $6 million and Dane County will receive nearly $15 million as part of the Neighborhood Investment Fund grant program. Of the amount provided to the City, $4 million is designated towards the creation of the proposed Madison Public Market. The funds were made available by the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, and are intended to assist local governments and nonprofits working to restore economic activity in Wisconsin following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the Governor’s statement, these funds will be used for community development projects that expand affordable housing, bolster economic, social, and cultural opportunities, and support business development and entrepreneurship. Other Grant recipients include the Black Business Hub, the Center for Black Excellence & Culture, Bayview Foundation and Centro Hispano.

“We are especially pleased that funding has been made available for the proposed Madison Public Market, and that this shovel-ready project has been recognized by the State of Wisconsin Department of Administration as an important business development endeavor, working to restore economic activity following the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jamaal Stricklin, Madison Public Market Foundation board chair. 

The proposed Madison Public Market is a collaboration between the City of Madison, which owns the former Fleet Services Building at First Street and East Johnson Street, and the Madison Public Market Foundation, which will operate the Market at that location. The Public Market is a vital food and equity-based economic development initiative that is mission-driven to create jobs and new businesses, and to establish an iconic welcoming destination for all. 

Stricklin adds, “The Public Market will be a real boost to the regional economy and will benefit substantially from these construction-related funds. Most importantly, we look forward to creating new business development opportunities for regional food entrepreneurs and crafts persons, with an emphasis on those owned and operated by people of color, women, and first generation immigrants. We are thankful that this new funding source will bring us closer to our financial goal, resulting in a market that is welcoming for both visitors to the city as well as local residents looking for a regular shopping or dining experience.”

The City of Madison, led by Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and the economic development team, have been essential and invaluable partners to the Madison Public Market Foundation in bringing the Market to fruition.  

As reported in a Wisconsin State Journal article covering the Governor’s announcement, the City is prepared to move forward with the Market’s construction. “The market’s financing piece is now “locked in,” said Matt Wachter, city planning, community and economic director. The city can now pursue a construction contract, contracts with the operator, the Madison Public Market Foundation, and seek other final approvals for the project, he said.

“With this funding, we will be breaking ground this year in November,” said Madison Public Market Foundation board member Anne Reynolds. “There’s been so much uncertainty over the past two years, but now we finally have some certainty. It’s really exciting. We are confident that the Market will be a cultural jewel, showcasing the very best of our diverse food history, arts, music and crafts.”

Annually, the Market will attract 500,000+ visitors, support 130 new and existing local businesses through permanent and temporary vending space and generate $16 – $20 million in local sales. 

The former Fleet Services Building at 202 N. First Street is a 1960s era industrial garage ideally designed and sized for the proposed Market activities. As the final pieces of funding are secured and the necessary City of Madison approvals occur, the building is expected to begin transitioning to Public Market development activity later this year. Market construction is expected to begin in late 2022, with an anticipated opening in late 2023.

More than 200 businesses have completed the Vendor Interest Form to express desire to operate within the Public Market. Some are well-established local businesses interested in the Public Market as a new location to grow their enterprise. Several prospective vendors are interested in a larger space for a restaurant, a bakery, a larger retail space, or food production facility. 

The Public Market’s proposed Food Innovation Center will offer new and existing small busineses affordable space as well as access to specialized food preparation, packaging and distribution facilities. New food product testing can easily be arranged by offering samples to Market visitors. The Food Innovation Center will be a complementary space operating in support of existing commercial kitchens available to small businesses. 


Year End Update: 2022 will be the year that our Public Market breaks ground!


As we look ahead to a new year, we are more hopeful than ever that our Public Market will FINALLY become a reality in Madison. We can’t thank you enough, donors and friends, for continuing to support and believe in this exciting project.

Our progress continues toward a groundbreaking in fall of 2022. Our forward momentum includes:

  • New community supporters: Despite the challenges, the community continues to help us move the Market forward. We’ve received support from a variety of generous corporate and philanthropic leaders in 2021. (see below)
  • State funding opportunities: Both the City of Madison and the Madison Public Market Foundation submitted grants for WI recovery funding. Because of construction delays and other unforeseen challenges, the project has a funding gap that can be mostly filled by these opportunities.
  • Federal EDA grant: Throughout 2021, City staff have been meeting with representatives at EDA to secure this important federal funding. We expect a final award in early 2022.
  • Weekly progress: For the last year, the City of Madison staff and Madison Public Market Foundation have been meeting every week to keep the project moving forward. We greatly appreciate our wonderful team at the City.

We are so close to putting shovels in the ground, and it’s critical that we are successful. We continue to receive requests for affordable space in the Market, as businesses struggle and look for options.

Together, we can build a community-focused iconic destination that celebrates the best of Madison, supports 100+ small businesses every year, and puts minority-owned businesses front and center.

If you haven’t already, please consider the Market for your seasonal giving. The more folks who join with us, the sooner we can open the doors.

Happy Holidays and New Year!
Jamaal Stricklin, Chair
Madison Public Market Foundation

Judge’s Ruling re: Homeless Shelter Bodes Well for Market’s Progress

The City of Madison has been hosting a men’s homeless shelter in the former Fleet Services building since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Recently, the Common Council approved the purchase of a vacant big box location on Zeier Road, near East Towne. The City intends to use this site as a temporary location for the men’s shelter and continues to search for a permanent location. A private lawsuit was filed seeking to prevent the re-location of the homeless shelter to the Zeier Road site. In a favorable development for the commencement of Market construction, slated for fall 2022, a judge has declined to halt the City’s plans for the temporary shelter, allowing the City to proceed with their temporary shelter plans. Read the article describing the details of the lawsuit and the judge’s decision.


Small Business Spotlight: Melly Mel’s owner prepares for permanent storefront at Public Market

Please take a moment to watch this wonderful spotlight on Carmel Jackson and her dream of being a Public Market vendor. We are so enamored with her dedication to the Market and love of great food.

Small Business Spotlight: Melly Mel’s owner prepares for permanent storefront 6 years after closing original restaurant

Kavanaugh Restaurant Supply is a Valued Public Market Supporter

Over the years, we’ve had wonderful support from many local businesses. Family owned and operated Kavanaugh’s Restaurant Supply continues to be a strong supporter of the Market and so many other important community organizations throughout Dane County. We’ve been fortunate to have had kitchen supplies and equipment donated to the Market, and for an extended period of time, Kavanaugh’s has both moved and stored that equipment. It’s a very valuable donation and is sincerely appreciated. And by the way, if you haven’t visited Kavanaugh Restaurant Supply, you really should! They have a great selection of cooking tools and fun kitchen supplies that will make your home-based culinary experiences even better. Thanks to Kristi and the whole team!

First 5 Public Market vendors unveiled!

After 15+ years of community feedback, planning, and preparing, the Madison Public Market Foundation in partnership with the City of Madison, has made significant progress in making our Public Market a reality. With the architectural design plan complete, $3M raised in philanthropic funds, the site at the City’s Fleet Building secured, and the recent Mayor’s budget that maintains the $7M needed for the project, the Madison Public Market project moves into the next phase towards completion.

Recently, another significant milestone for the Madison Public Market project was accomplished. MarketReady, the project’s flagship program, completed its first phase with resounding results. Launched in 2017, the MarketReady program was created for two important reasons:
1) to ensure that the Madison Public Market is truly diverse and welcoming to all people and;
2) to build equity in our community through supporting entrepreneurial opportunities within communities of color. Of the 30 entrepreneurs who have participated in this program, 83% are people of color, 62% are women and 33% are first generation immigrants.

Mike Miller, City of Madison Business Resources, oversaw the MarketReady program. “MarketReady was designed as an entrepreneurial training program, connecting entrepreneurs with resources that can help them pursue their dream of owning their own business.” The City of Madison funded the administration of MarketReady through the Northside Planning Council.

The program was designed for entrepreneurs who either had a small existing business (food carts, catering, etc.) or had a strong idea for starting a business. MarketReady provided connections to resources, coaching, and business mentors with the goal of preparing many of these business owners for a successful launch in the Public Market.

Over the last three years, these 30 business owners have sold their first products, invested in equipment, designed logos and websites, launched brick and mortar locations, and expanded product lines. Collectively, participants added 15 jobs over the course of the program, paying these employees a median rate of $12 per hour. Perhaps most importantly, these entrepreneurs built relationships with one another and with partner organizations that will continue to support their business development in the months and years to come.

At the completion of the program, 18 participants submitted detailed business plans for how they would like to operate in the Public Market. A group of community leaders, including representatives from the Black and Latino chambers of commerce, the Madison Public Market Foundation and the City of Madison’s Public Market Development Committee, evaluated these plans and selected 5 participants to receive $19,000 each to support their successful operation in the Public Market.

Today, the Madison Public Market Foundation announces the recipients of the grants and welcomes these entrepreneurs as our first official vendors of the Madison Public Market. Congratulations to Caracas Empanadas y Más, Little Tibet, Melly Mell’s, Perfect Imperfection, and El Sabor de Puebla. (Learn more about these vendors below).

Through MarketReady, the Public Market will be an important incubator for starting and accelerating businesses, with a strong focus on minority-owned enterprises, who are too often left out of the start-up conversation.

“The success of MarketReady has exceeded our expectations and is playing a key role in ensuring that our Public Market is diverse. More importantly, MarketReady and the Public Market address the serious equity challenges we face in Madison by supporting and promoting entrepreneurship among communities of color and women,” said Jamaal Stricklin, Madison Public Market Foundation Board Chair.

Stricklin shared that the Madison Public Market will continue the next phase of the Public Market by providing coaching and mentorship support to the MarketReady vendors and other diverse entrepreneurs who launch in the Market when the doors open in 2022. Additionally, the Madison Public Market Foundation will identify a new cohort of multicultural entrepreneurs to begin the MarketReady program.

“The Public Market is meant to be a business incubator that serves as a steppingstone in the journey of entrepreneurship. While some businesses will become beloved, permanent merchants at the Market, many others will accelerate out of the Market as their businesses grow and prosper. The ongoing MarketReady program will ensure that there are always new, multicultural entrepreneurs ready to launch and grow in the Market,” explains Stricklin.

For the remaining MarketReady participants who were not announced today and for other entrepreneurs hoping to call the Madison Public Market home, there will be plenty of upcoming opportunities to participate in the Public Market. Next year, the Madison Public Market Foundation will begin the Market’s vendor selection process to select the 25 additional permanent vendors for the Market. Once the Market is open, there will be opportunities for daily, weekly, and monthly temporary vendors, likely offering vending opportunities to 100+ entrepreneurs every year. For visitors this means that there will be new, unique treasures to find at the Market during every season.

Along with start-up organizations, the Public Market will also feature two to four anchor restaurants/cafes/brew pubs that will be long-time established businesses to provide financial stability to the overall Market business plan. Currently, over 200 businesses, large and small, mature and start-up, have submitted formal interest in having a space in the Market.

With 500,000 visitors annually and delicious, unique cuisine and handmade artisan crafts that will reflect the culture and best of our community, the Madison Public Market will soon be a treasured destination for Madisonians and tourists alike. The City of Madison will break ground next year, with Madison’s first public market opening in late 2022.


First five Madison Public Market vendors (all MarketReady participants):

Little Tibet

Little Tibet is an original, family-owned restaurant offering authentic homemade Tibetan and Himalayan tribal cuisine! With two food carts and a restaurant in the Tenney Lapham neighborhood, Little Tibet is a gathering spot for east side neighbors, our local Tibetan and Himalayan region community, and a destination for tourists and locals where they share information on Tibetan food, culture, religion, and life. When the Madison Public Market opens in 2022, we hope to expand our business and open a second location in the Market, adding more jobs as well. The menu will feature traditional Tibetan and Himalayan food with quality ingredients sourced locally.

Perfect Imperfections

Jasmine Banks, CEO of Perfect Imperfections, is a 5th generation Madisonian and she still lives in the home she was born and raised in. Perfect Imperfections is Jasmine’s natural handcrafted body care line that uses quality and local sourced ingredients. She empowers women to appreciate life daily and care for themselves with safe, chemical-free body products. Prior to the Madison Public Market, Jasmine’s dream for her business never included having a brick and mortar because it didn’t seem attainable.  Being a part of the Market Ready program has shown her that with the right people, resources, training and determination that anything is possible… and that includes having a space inside of the Madison Public Market.

Caracas Empanadas y Más

If you’ve never had an empanada, then you don’t know what you’re missing. Empanadas are a staple food in many Latin American countries including Venezuela. In 2010 Luis Dompablo opened his first food cart Caracas Empanadas, featuring some of the very same recipes his mother prepared for him as a young boy. For the past ten years, Caracas Empanadas has gained a reputation as one of Madison’s most popular food carts. Luis named the cart after the city he grew up in, making Caracas Empanadas Madison’s first Venezuelan food cart. Through the MarketReady program, Luis has grown his business and expanded his product line to now include arepas. Luis looks forward to accelerating his business by having a counter/restaurant in the Madison Public Market and bringing more delicious flavors of Latin America to the greater Madison community.

Melly Mell’s

Carmell Jackson, owner of Melly Mell’s makes healthy home cooked food with a southern flair from recipes passed down through generations. “Feeding you fills my heart. I also offer healthy options to keep your heart and body healthy!”

Carmell is a successful caterer with her soul food being in high demand at events and celebrations across the Madison region. Carmell envisions Melly Mell’s being an integral part of the Public Market, bringing warmth, big smiles, and laughter that resonates throughout.  Her soul food will be available to eat at the Public Market or take home to “heat and eat.”

The MarketReady program gave Carmell a new start. She shares that the program helped her in so many ways to build her business and help make it the best that it can be. Carmell plans to use her Market business as an opportunity to train youth and inspire other children of color to become entrepreneurs. Carmell believes the Market will give small business a place to thrive.

El Sabor de Puebla

For several years, Reyna Gonzalez Torres and Waldo Olguin, a wife and husband team, have successfully owned a tamale production business that distributes their incredible tamales to grocery stores and eateries across Madison, in addition to owning and operating a restaurant on Madison’s near east side.

At the Madison Public Market, Reyna and Waldo will develop a Puebla style cocina (kitchen) and juice/ smoothie bar.  The business will be called: Antojitos, and it will be connected with El Sabor de Puebla, their successful restaurant. If you’ve ever had the Torres-Olguin family Mexican cuisine, you know that it will soon become a favorite at the Public Market. All products will be made from natural and organic ingredients when possible.

Resources for Supporting the Public Market


Thank you for your desire to support our Madison Public Market project. We’ve come way too far and the need for supporting our small businesses is too great to stop the momentum now!

The Madison Public Market Foundation has put together a variety of talking points below to help you write letters to the editor, email your elected officials, and chat with people in our community in support of the Market. Please feel welcome to use any of the language to help support your viewpoint. If you have any questions, you can reach out to us at

Here’s one example of a letter of support from Neil Heinen, Channel 3000. 

Also, from the Northside Planning Council, as published in Madison365:  Opinion: Defunding the Public Market is yet another divestment from communities of color

Talking points (according to type of supporter):

For General Supporters

For Small Business/Vendors

For Civic Leaders

For Large Businesses


More Information:

Madison Public Market Foundation’s perspective

View our short video on the benefits and purpose of the Market

Wisconsin State Journal overview of the current situation


Write to the Mayor and Alders:

Please email the City and ask them to maintain Market funding and move our #MarketForward! The City has received an outpouring of support for our Market. Let’s keep it going!


Letters to the Editor

Submit a letter to the editor for Wisconsin State Journal (200 word limit)

Submit a letter to the editor for the Cap Times (300 word limit)


THANK YOU to the thousands of supporters who have attended public hearings, completed surveys, attended Market events, volunteered, donated, and supported our project in so many other ways. We’re so close! We can make this happen together.