Cleveland — The West Side Market has been a crown jewel for Cleveland for more than a century, but some vendors say, if things keep going the way they are, their days are numbered.
For months, they’ve been telling us about a crumbling infrastructure that’s making life unbearable and unprofitable. What's worse, they say, is no one is listening. It’s why they decided to go public, sharing video and pictures.
We saw video of the partially flooded Mediterranean Foods, where water came pouring down from the roof after last weekend’s rain. Owner Gus Mougianis says he’s complained about the leaky roof multiple times, but Market management did nothing. He claims the flooding cost him about $5,000 in lost food.
He wouldn't go on camera, like many vendors. They say the city told them not to talk.
But Denise Kahwagi, owner of Cake Royale, did speak to us.
"[The other owners are] scared of retaliation," she said. "They're afraid of maybe even losing their lease."
And the flooding is just the start.
We saw video and pictures of plumbing problems in basement sinks, which keep them from cleaning their equipment. There are screens that have fallen from windows onto the main floor.
"Those screens are 15-20 feet up," Kahwagi said. "Whenever it's a windy day, they come crashing down."
Then there's the electrical system. It’s being powered by a generator and hooked up with extension cords, which they say caused a small fire.
Kahwagi says the Market’s solution is, “Don't fix it. Just patch it temporarily."
The century-old building has clearly seen better days. Vendors blame current manager Felicia Hall for inaction, despite rising rents.
"We're looking at another rent increase for the space we have and business," Kahwagi said. "A lot of vendors can't survive."
When we spoke to past president of the tenant’s association Tony Pinzone in May (when we first learned of the problems), he said people needed to be patient.
"It's hard to keep up with those things," he said. "The money isn't sitting in a box where they can just go and get it."
But vendors say it's more about bad management. According to Kahwagi, "They're not good stewards of the building. They don't care."
Vendors claim the other issue is that the city is forcing them to open their shops at 7 a.m., even though shoppers rarely show up before 9 a.m. If they ignore the rules, they claim they're hit with violations and could get shut down.
We reached out to the City, but they ignored us too.