Five Rivers MetroParks will test expanded hours at 2nd Street Market this year to determine if the interest level is high enough for future expansions.
The market has grown its attendance to 385,000 visitors in 2016 from 370,000 in 2013.
Many customers and some vendors have asked for additional hours. The current hours have been a source of dissatisfaction for nearly one in three customers.
“This is a big step for our market,” said Jimmy Harless, 2nd Street Market manager.
Last year, MetroParks surveyed citizens to find out what additional days and hours they would visit the indoor marketplace, which is located in a former railroad warehouse at 600 E. Second St.
Using feedback from more than 1,470 respondents, MetroParks has decided to launch a 13-week pilot program that will offer Sunday hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The plan is to run the pilot program from June 4 to Aug. 27.
Currently, the market is open Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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The pilot program’s measures of success will be the door count or attendance, the feedback received from customer surveys and vendor participation, said Harless.
If the pilot is successful, the market will plan to repeat and maybe expand the program in 2018, Harless said.
“This is our trial run — from here we hope to figure out what to do next,” he said.
The survey asked what people liked most and least about the 2nd Street Market and what improvement they would like to see.
Survey takers were most satisfied with the courtesy, cleanliness and location of the market. Between 92 to 94 percent of people expressed satisfaction or extreme satisfaction with these elements of the market.
But nearly one in three respondents (31 percent) said they were dissatisfied or extremely dissatisfied with the market’s hours.
The survey asked people what services and products they wanted most during expanded hours. Many people indicated they wanted items from local growers and producers, specialty foods and baked goods and prepared foods.
“Basically, they would like a diverse, plentiful list of options for them to find at the market,” said Amy Forsthoefel, MetroParks’ research and analysis manager. “Basically, they want a Saturday experience on Sunday.”
Opening on Sunday could serve suburban shoppers who may struggle to get to the market on Saturdays, and it also could be a Sunday lunch or brunch destination for downtown residents or the place they go to get groceries, Forsthoefel said.
About 87 percent of customers said they would increase their spending at the market if it extended its hours, she said.
If Sunday hours prove successful, it’s possible the market will look at extending them year-round instead of just seasonal, said Rebecca Benná, executive director of Five Rivers MetroParks.
The market has been popular since opening at its current location 15 years ago.
But the scorchingly hot downtown housing market has created a loyal and growing customer base for the facility that some people see as an opportunity for growing the market’s hours and capacity.
There are now about 1,345 market-rate housing units in downtown, and about 630 more on the way, according to the city of Dayton officials.
A master plan for Five Rivers MetroParks recommends the organization invest $875,000 to $1.25 million to add 3,500 to 5,000 square feet to the market. The market currently is about 16,000 square feet.
It’s unclear how many vendors will participate in the pilot program, but market officials said it’s possible more than half will take part.
“For this year, it would be successful if we could get a Friday attendance figure on a Sunday,” Forsthoefel said. “We’re not going to strive for a Saturday number, but if we get a Saturday number — amazing.”
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