COVID-19 prompts innovative collaboration among Christine’s Kitchens, FEED and MarketReady


It’s times like these when we depend on our friends and family to help us through. The Coronavirus and the Safe at Home initiative has us spending more time at home and foregoing trips to our favorite restaurants. With large gatherings cancelled or postponed, catering operations have no one to cook for. That’s been especially hard on small business operators in food production, catering and restaurants. Revenue is down considerably. In fact, according to the James Beard Foundation, four out of five independent restaurants may not survive the pandemic.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and many in the food industry have had to be creative to continue operating. Fortunately, Christine’s Kitchens has partnered with FEED Kitchens and the Madison Public Market’s MarketReady program to organize and deliver pre-packaged food items on a weekly basis. Over 30 vendors are represented, offering everything from apple straps to whoopie pies.

Christine Ameigh, best known for her Slide Gourmet Potato Chips, operates Christine’s Kitchens, an east-side commercial kitchen shared with other food producers such as jam makers, bakers, caterers and pickles and preserves wholesalers. With approximately 60 percent of her potato chip business reliant on now-closed bars, she had a considerable amount of stock that needed to be sold quickly. After organizing and promoting a successful online sales effort, many of her fellow producers were intrigued. Together, they built upon the concept and now offer an expanded assortment of packaged and prepared food products, including fresh-made meals. Approximately 70 no-contact deliveries were made during the first week, and later, with MarketReady vendors participating, the following week’s orders totaled more than 200. Over $30,000 in products have been sold and 500 deliveries been made since early April.

“As a business owner, trying to adapt to the ever-changing world is 100 percent necessary and usually never planned”, says Ameigh. “The sales have just been stupendous. We are very excited. If you go on our website, you’ll see you can probably order everything you’ll need to eat for at least one week, maybe two.”

Well-loved catering companies are represented. Aloha Wagon offers a Huli Huli chicken lunch plate, sweet teriyaki boneless chicken thighs, purple rice and authentic Hawaiian Mac salad. Bunky’s provides hummus, baba ghanouj, lentil soup and baklava. Caracas Empanadas sells shredded beef & cheese, chicken, breakfast, and pulled pork empanadas. You can get your soul food fix from Melly Mel’s with an order of fried chicken, collards, corn bread and mac and cheese. Melly Mel’s offerings in May will feature BBQ chicken and baby back ribs combos including mac and greens. Ember Foods, famous for Indian food, is selling samosas, chicken korma and chana masala.

Carmel Jackson, also known as “Melly Mel” and owner of the namesake catering service, was fearful when the coronavirus outbreak occurred. Catering jobs were cancelled, and she wondered how she would continue. As a MarketReady Program participant, she was able to offer her menu via the Christine’s Kitchens website. “I was so happy that this opportunity became available to me. It put me at ease as I was able to get the money I needed for my business to survive. This is truly a blessing for me as I’m not sitting at home, just hoping to not get sick.” Jackson also found inspiration in the online ordering service. “The way this has come together gives us hope, keeps our spirits up and opens our heart to others”, she adds.

Yakub Kazi and Nausheen Qureishi, who operate Ember Foods are also thankful for the new delivery service. “This has been a blessing for us” says Kazi. “With orders from our largest customer halted, selling through Christine’s Kitchen has provided valuable relief. Christine has been excellent to work with.”

Specialty foods are also available. Shoppers will find an assortment of delicious cookies and cheesecakes from Looking Glass Bakery, award winning chocolates and confections from Roots Chocolates, cooking sauces from Madame Chu Delicacies, and a variety of cheeses from Farmer Johns’ Cheese. Super Charge! Foods sells mixed greens, ready-made salads, spring rolls and wraps. Offerings from other vendors include fresh baked breads, vegetables, coffee, charcuterie-style meats, soaps, caramelized pecans, pizza and popcorn, and more.

Jamaal Stricklin of Super Charge! Foods saw a 60 percent downturn in business because of the coronavirus pandemic. With his restaurant and retail store closed, he foresaw the prospect of losing the business. “Faced with this challenge, my team and I did what entrepreneurs do. We worked with Christine to grow our revenue through this delivery service.” The rewards have been significant. “We now have an alternate source of income from this new business model and have recouped some of lost revenue. While we are still fine tuning these efforts, it has helped us realize we could add a regular, supplemental delivery service that we now provide on our own.”

Stricklin also expressed his appreciation for the service provided by Christine’s Kitchens. “Christine has been wonderful to work with. I know that coordinating all the orders and making this service happen takes a great deal of effort.”

Visitors to the Christine’s Kitchens website will find instructions for delivery and full menus and product listings from each vendor. Order periods occur over a six-day timeframe, with delivery occurring a few days later. Free delivery is offered for orders over $20 to Madison, Sun Prairie, Columbus, Windsor, Deforest, Middleton, Oregon, McFarland, Verona, Cross Plains, Stoughton, Cottage Grove, Fitchburg, Waunakee and Monona.

The MarketReady program is an initiative sponsored by the City of Madison and administered by the Northside Planning Council as part of the proposed Madison Public Market. MarketReady is focused on providing training, supportive services and micro-grants for low income populations, people of color, immigrants, women, displaced workers, veterans and LGBTQ individuals interested in becoming Madison Public Market vendors.

Megan Ballard, project manager at the Madison Public Market Foundation believes that the collaborative effort among MarketReady, Christine’s Kitchens and FEED Kitchens exemplifies how small businesses can work together to weather these economic hard times. She looks forward to the opening of the 44,000 square foot market at First Street and East Johnson Street, which will include a 9,000 square foot Public Market Kitchen. This space will be dedicated to small businesses focused on food production and distribution. “With the COVID-19 crisis so heavily impacting small businesses, especially farmers, restaurants, and food producers, it’s important now more than ever to create a shared, community space like the Madison Public Market where small, family-owned businesses can thrive.”

In reference to the collaboration based at Christine’s Kitchens, Ballard adds, “This is just one powerful example of how small businesses united under one roof are stronger and more successful.”

Friends and family can truly help us persevere, even in the most difficult of times.

For more information about the proposed Madison Public Market, please visit MadisonPublicMarket.org.

Madison Public Market Foundation leads with development and operations planning


For many years, a vibrant and highly regarded public market has been the dream of entrepreneurs, community leaders and City of Madison employees.  To make this dream a reality, the community-led Madison Public Market Development Committee (MPMDC) ushered approvals through the Common Council, coordinated with City planning and economic development staff, and created a comprehensive business plan for the Market.

As plans proceeded, it became evident that the City’s role should be limited to critical matters related to the physical building of the Market including site selection, architectural design and construction. Their efforts, combined with the contributions of countless others, helped to create a timeline that calls for the opening of the Madison Public Market in Fall 2021.

Early in the planning process, it was determined that neither the MPMDC nor the City of Madison would be responsible for daily Market operations. The City’s primary role is to lead the renovation of the Fleet Services building (the Market’s future home) and maintain ownership of the building and land.

With that in mind, the Madison Public Market Foundation was created in May 2017. Operating as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the Foundation has already taken the lead in fundraising efforts and community engagement. When the Market is open, the Foundation will manage day-to-day operations. Until then, the Foundation will lead in vendor selection, the employee hiring process (including the Executive Director search), raise $4 million to create the Market, and work closely with the City on the architectural design so that the needs of vendors and tenants are met.

Recently, the Foundation hired Megan Ballard as Project Manager, charged with the task of implementing the Market’s operating plan. With a background in the commercial real estate industry, including managing and leasing shopping malls, Megan brings a wealth of experience critical to the operations of the proposed Madison Public Market. “I am so pleased to serve in this role”, says Ballard. “We have already made so much progress in terms of community outreach, in support of our MarketReady vendors, in fundraising activity and in creating innovative architectural designs for what will be an amazing asset for Madison and beyond.”

Ballard says that with the progress made towards building the market, this is a very exciting time. “Our next steps are those that prepare us for operationalizing the business plan in a manner that assures the Market’s financial success. Finalization of the architectural plans, including specifications for vendor siting, allows us to begin the process of selecting Market vendors. We’ve had tremendous interest expressed by local and regional businesses – both large and small. Very soon, we will develop both the rules and regulations for Market participation and define the leasing process.”

Business operators interested in opportunities at the Madison Public Market are encouraged to complete and submit the Madison Public Market Vendor Interest Form available from the City of Madison.

Board chair Jamaal Stricklin reviews design ideas from branding firm ZebradogThe look and feel of the Market is also a front-burner issue. The Foundation has engaged local communication design firm Zebradog (pictured right) to create a memorable and welcoming environment within the 50,000 square feet of the former Fleet Services Building. The Foundation will be responsible for selecting the building’s artwork, storytelling features and ongoing marketing and promotions for the Market, including regular community cultural events featuring area musicians, performers and artists.

Community engagement has long been a critical component of the Market’s development efforts, and the current status of the Market’s design incorporates thousands of public comments provided through surveys and public input sessions. The City of Madison has scheduled another Info & Public Feedback Session:

Thursday, September 5
6:00 pm
Madison Municipal Building, 215 Martin Luther King Blvd., RM 215
More Info Here

Attendees can view detailed designs of the proposed market, including the mix and layout of merchants at the market, event spaces, outdoor plazas, and potential community arts/exhibit spaces. There will be an update on pedestrian, bike and vehicle access and site design for what is currently the City’s Fleet Services Building at East Johnson Street and First Street.

The Foundation continues to update and engage with the community through Taste of the Madison Public Market events, active Facebook and Instagram pages, regular eUpdates, and presentations at Rotary, Kiwanis, Downtown Madison, Inc., and other forums.

 

The Madison Public Market Foundation Board members include:

  • Jamaal Stricklin (President), SuperCharge! Foods
  • Megan Ballard, Madison Commercial Real Estate
  • Sujhey Beisser, Park Bank & Five Senses Palate
  • Karen Crossley, community leader
  • Victoria Davis, Associated Bank
  • Rebecca Prochaska, Potter Lawson
  • Anne Reynolds, Madison Public Market Development Committee
  • Donale Richards
  • John Starkweather, Boardman Clark
  • Amanda White, Consultant (non-Board member)

Additionally, the Foundation created the Madison Public Market Advisory Council, consisting of community leaders who meet quarterly to provide guidance to the project. These members include:

  • Betty Banks, African American community historian and organizer
  • Craig Bartlett, Associate Publisher-Owner, Isthmus Publishing
  • Peter Cavi, First Vice President, Merrill Lynch
  • Al Cooper, Coordinator, Dane Dances
  • Suzanne Fanning, VP of Marketing Communications, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin
  • Greg Frank, VP of Community Relations, Food Fight Restaurant Group
  • Peter Gray, Executive Search Consultant, QTI
  • Alison Helland, Attorney, Boardman & Clark
  • Jonny Hunter, Co-Founder, Underground Food Collective
  • Ken Monteleone, Owner, Fromagination
  • Melanie Ramey, Communication Coach and Speaker
  • Helen Sarakinos, Executive Director, REAP Food Group
  • Trey Sprinkman, Owner, Sprinkman Real Estate
  • James Shulkin, Windflower Consulting, Windworker Studio and Fishmonger Studio
  • Steve Suleski, VP Board Relations, CUNA Mutual Group
  • Missy Tracy, Municipal Relations Coordinator, Ho Chunk Nation/Ho Chunk Casino

Ballard is optimistic that with the most current building design plans, the brand identity developed by Zebradog, and the upcoming Info & Feedback session, the Foundation can intensify efforts to raise the requisite capital from donors. “With the expertise of Amanda White Consulting, we have already raised more than a million dollars of our four million dollar goal. Our capital campaign is just getting started, and I’m confident that once everyone knows the scope of our plans and sees the architectural renderings, they’ll come together to support this important project.”If you are interested in getting involved with the Public Market through participating in the Advisory Council, Board of Directors, or volunteer opportunities, please contact Megan Ballard at megan@madisonpublicmarket.org.

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James Shulkin is a communications professional and artist. He is the Principal at Windflower Marketing & Public Relations, Chief Kinetic Officer at Windworker Studio and creator at Fishmonger Studio. He’s also a member of the Madison Public Market’s Advisory Council.

 

Northside News: At Public Market Sneak Peek, public and businesses get MarketReady


MarketReady vendor Ember Foods

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May 31, 2019. On Wednesday, May 8, Madisonians got their first look inside the future home of the Madison Public Market at 200 N. First St., which currently houses the city’s Fleet Services building. The Public Market Sneak Peek event featured members of the MarketReady program, a project of the Northside Planning Council working in collaboration with the City of Madison to put equity at the center of the market by supporting a diverse group of entrepreneurs as they prepare to apply for a location in the market. MarketReady businesses offered samples and sold goods ranging from prepared foods to jewelry and body care products.

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Badger Herald: MarketReady program supports diversity among entrepreneurs


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When Josie Chu’s mother passed away and Chu inherited her cookbooks, she had no idea that an old recipe for sauce tucked in the back pages would soon become an entire business.

Chu now owns the condiment company Madame Chu Delicacies, and like many other entrepreneurs in Madison, has faced various barriers while building her business. But programs like The Food Enterprise and Economic Development Kitchen and MarketReady have given her the tools to navigate such obstacles.

FEED and MarketReady are both part of several organizations that work to support populations that face historic barriers to entrepreneurship.

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