City of Wheeling, Grow Ohio Valley Sign Lease for Future Site of Public Market in Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center

Public Market Is On Track With Signing of Lease

Photo by Alan Olson Workers assist Grow Ohio Valley by hanging paper signs, serving a dual purpose of announcing the market coming to the Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center in Wheeling, as well as covering the debris of construction over coming months.

WHEELING — Grow Ohio Valley’s Public Market is officially coming to the Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center this summer after the nonprofit food agency last week signed a lease with the city of Wheeling and other entities.

Grow Ohio Valley, the city, the Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority and the Anthony Wayne Oil Corp. are named on the lease. Now that it’s signed, it will allow GrowOV’s market to open in the space along Main Street that most recently served as a Greyhound bus stop.

Other entities have used the space over the years, but since Greyhound’s departure in 2014 there has not been a permanent tenant.

The Public Market will run year-round and offer local food and farm products, along with natural and specialty items not widely available in Wheeling, according to information from GrowOV.

“We’re encouraged by the swell of support for this project. People in our community want to support our local farmers,” said GrowOV Director Danny Swan. “This collaboration opens the door to a new and unique grocery offering in Wheeling, where shoppers effectively invest in healthy food access for our whole community.”

The market will offer locally grown produce, eggs, meats and other products from more than 40 consignment vendors. It will also offer jams, pickles and ferments, bulk nuts and grains and feature a deli serving breakfast and lunch options with local ingredients.

“We’re excited to see this initiative launch downtown,” Wheeling Vice Mayor Chad Thalman said. “It creates an important amenity for downtown dwellers and should bring new visitors into our downtown core.”

The lease agreement will last for five years and is renewable, subject to approval, GrowOV co-founder Ken Peralta said. GrowOV initially will pay the city $150 a month in rent, in addition to a tax similar to a business and occupation tax so the shop doesn’t have an unfair advantage over other businesses, he said.

The lease agreement came about after Wheeling City Council authorized City Manager Robert Herron in June 2017 to negotiate a lease for a vacant portion of the intermodal. Peralta negotiated the agreement for GrowOV, and representing OVRTA and Anthony Wayne Oil Corp. were Lisa Weishar and Terry Smith, respectively.

The market, which is the first year-round outlet selling local foods and natural products in the Upper Ohio Valley, plans to return 70 to 80 percent of its sales to farmers. The returns are designed to benefit local farmers by lessening the financial strain on their operations.

“The Public Market will be extremely valuable for us,” said Eric Blend of Blended Homestead, which raises small-scale pastured pork and poultry at a farm near Oglebay Park. “It gives us a location to sell to new customers that haven’t heard of us. With the Public Market opening, we’ll be able to expand our business and provide more products for our customers to enjoy.”

GrowOV Special Projects Director Eleanor Marshall was on hand at the Intermodal Thursday, leading workers in hanging paper signs designed both to advertise the coming market and to block views of the construction, as the entire storefront is glass.

“We are covering up the windows. These will be up while we do construction and store setup, and they’ll come down at opening,” Marshall said. “These will provide some public art, and kind of start messaging to the community who we are and what we’re about.”

Marshall said she designed the signs and printed some of them at the House of Hagar, while others were simply projected onto paper and traced.

“We can have a big reveal when the market is done, and put up some pretty pictures in the meantime, to get people excited, instead of looking in at construction, and we can reveal it when we’re done,” she said.

Next, the Public Market is looking to hire a deli and market manager and an AmeriCorps VISTA service volunteer to work with local farmers as a producer outreach coordinator. The market also continues to recruit vendors that grow or make local food products.

Thursday’s announcement came shortly after Grow Ohio Valley received nearly $800,000 in grant funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER program. Part of that money will go toward starting up the Public Market.

“These healthy food access programs are at the core of who we are at Grow Ohio Valley: building a culture of health that includes everyone,” Swan said. “Feeding our community with local food advances our vision to achieve regional food security. We look forward to sharing our plans for the market over the coming weeks and months.”

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