FSM in peril? Hannah responds to FAQ.
Since ancient times people have conducted business in open-air markets like the Fenton Street Market, but FSM plugged smack into the 21st-century on Saturday, when news of our troubled negotiations with Montgomery County went viral online. A story broke on the Washington Examiner’s website at 8:05 p.m. on Friday night; by 10 a.m. Saturday, customers arriving at the market were stopping at the FSM info table to say they had heard about it on WTOP radio on the way over. By my count, the story has Tweeted to at least 2,700 people, plus spread on Facebook. For us, and for the Silver Spring community at large, a threat to Fenton Street Market’s future on Veterans Plaza is big-time news!
For weeks now I’ve been trying to keep the market running smoothly while struggling with this situation, and frankly I’m grateful that the problem is out in the open now–and grateful for the outpouring of support from the community. We can’t afford to pay 20x more than what we pay now to use Veterans Plaza–indeed, no outdoor market I know of can afford $1,250 a week. We have prided ourselves on being excellent tenants, using the space responsibly and leaving it better than we found it at the close of each market day. I live in this community, and I’m personally invested making our neighborhood shine. The Fenton Street Market has activated a formerly empty expanse of concrete in our downtown with a vibrant, community-based enterprise that stimulates the local economy (read the results of our 2011 economic impact study showing we bring more than $1.9M a year to downtown Silver Spring). And yet, it has been suggested to me by the county personnel charged with contracting the space that the community might benefit more from the Plaza being used as a putt-putt golf course next summer.
I just want to make sure you read that: a putt-putt golf course on the Plaza next year.
Most aggravating to me, I’m being asked by some who have done the basic math on our business–60 vendors a week x $40 a booth space x 30 weeks a year–why we can’t afford $35,000 or more a year in rent. What about insurance, advertising, a website, signage, staff, taxes, credit card fees? What about the things that make the Fenton Street Market special: local artists playing music, nonprofits exhibiting, the model trains and other kid-friendly activities, the Community Roundtable discussions? When you come to the market, you’re not going to see an actual store with walls, shelves, and a door with a little bell, but there’s still an infrastructure–and a fairly sophisticated one, at that, to pull something as robust as our market out of thin air week after week. I think anyone who exhibits or shops in the Fenton Street Market can see that we are running a highly organized, full-service operation with a generous dose of community benefit. That’s why we’re incorporated as a Benefit Corporation.
A lot of people are asking me how to help. Already, County Councilmember Hans Riemer has helped with a letter to County Executive Ike Leggett. Riemer, Leggett, Council President Valerie Ervin, and Silver Spring Regional Center director Reemberto Rodriguez all get it, but they need to hear why you think the Fenton Street Market should return to Veterans Plaza next year. Consider including the people who own and run the “capital-D” Downtown Silver Spring: Bryant Foulger, Ginger Rose, and Lillian Buie of Foulger Pratt/Peterson Companies. And definitely c.c. the county personnel who are in charge of negotiating our lease: Jewru Bandeh, Ginny Gong, and Diane Schwartz Jones.
Thanks for your help.
–Hannah McCann, FSM founder and president