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Remaking the Market: A conversation with former West Side Market manager Amanda Dempsey

Dempsey currently sits on the market's advisory board in its transition to a non-profit model. She also managed the market in 2013 and 2014.

CLEVELAND — Two weeks ago, 3News told you about the West Side Market's progress in its 10-month-plan to transition to non-profit management. It was the kick off to a new series called "Remaking the Market", where we introduce you to the people on the advisory board and what perspective they bring.

This week, meet board member Amanda Dempsey- who has some experience with running the market herself.

When Mitchell's Ice Cream opened its Ohio City Kitchen in 2014, it needed a leader to help keep up with the growing neighborhood around it.

A neighborhood already home to the iconic West Side Market.

“I came to Mitchell's at the end of 2014," Dempsey remembers as she and I sit on the second floor of the Ohio City shop, atop the busy kitchen where ice cream churns.

Dempsey is currently Mitchell's community engagement and event director. She came from down the street as manager of the West Side Market for about two years.

"My role as the market manager was to oversee the daily operations of the West Side Market, advocate for repairs that were needed that were requested by the vendors or any capitol projects that were going on at the time," she explains.

Before that, Dempsey was already familiar with the Market's day-to-day in her job with Ohio City Incorporated, where she served as market district director and helped plan the Market's Centennial Celebration. It was a celebration that started the Market's capitol planning process and launched an analysis of needed physical changes.

We asked Dempsey what the city has done since then.

"So the previous administration did invest in the market for capitol projects, which was great. Just kind of the long-term success of the market. Many other cities transitioned their markets and how they're operated. Cleveland's was still owned and operated by the city, and it had to compete for resources, like rec centers, police stations, fire stations. And of course the city's priority should be safety of the city and the residents in the neighborhoods, but it didn't allow the market to stand on its own and shine as the asset that it is for the region," she says.

With the new non-profit model, some of that competition should subside. Councilman Kerry McCormack, who oversees the Market's ward (Ward 5), and is also on the advisory board, explains where those dollars could eventually come from.

"Right now, nobody's gonna give the city money, private dollars for the market right," McCormack says. "But when there's a not-for-profit management group they can raise money from donations, from corporations, and I can tell you people are jumping to support the Market."

Both McCormack and Dempsey feel the city is on track in remaking the Market.

"It's the most optimistic I've ever felt. I think that's because you have the right powers at play here," Dempsey says.

"For the neighborhood itself, it is the most important assett of the community, hard stop," McCormack adds.

As far as an update on the advisory board's work, in their latest meeting they discussed how the board of those who will run the non-profit will be structured.

The tentative name for it is the Cleveland Public Market Corporation, and it would consist of a president, treasurer, secretary, and several break out committees to help oversee various components of the market from internal facets to merchant concerns. That structure is still being finalized and everything remains tentative as of now.

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