The popular Thursday Mountain Market in Canmore is expected to expand to include a Saturday event this summer.
Canmore Business and Tourism CEO Andrew Nickerson was before council last week to address concerns of politicians about expanding the market and road closure to a weekend day.
He said Canmore has the opportunity to hold the Mountain Market on Thursdays and Saturdays as key food anchor tenants have said they are willing to commit to both days, including Glen’s Fruit Truck.
“From a tourism perspective, this is an obvious opportunity because markets have proven everywhere drive people to town,” Nickerson said, adding where locals go, visitors follow. “There is a clear upside to downtown businesses by driving people to town.”
He said research has shown market goers spend an average of $32 at the market and then $18 at adjacent businesses.
However, he recognized there are a number of challenges to holding the Mountain Market on Saturdays, including parking, working with local businesses who have concerns over competition and use of Town of Canmore resources.
“We are very cognizant of this and we want to find a way to mitigate that and turn it into a positive for businesses,” Nickerson said. “The fact that vendors are willing to do both days is a huge endorsement of the market’s potential.”
Several of the issues were identified through a survey distributed by the Downtown Business Association.
While many of the issues need to be worked out, in the long-term, Nickerson said, food vendors have said they need to make their commitments before the end of January for markets they will attend in 2012.
Council indicated some apprehension over the tight timelines, but supported the idea if issues identified could be dealt with.
Councillor Ed Russell was particularly concerned about having the road closed and a market being held on Saturdays in summer that also have special events and festivals scheduled.
“You have had no consultation with special event groups and are asking us to take a big leap of faith here,” Russell said.
Nickerson said if the issues cannot be worked out, Canmore Business and Tourism will not go through with expanding the market to Saturdays.
“Yes, it is a leap of faith, but there is also a lot more work to be done,” he said.
General manager of municipal infrastructure Gary Buxton said the Saturday market should be looked at as a pilot project that will only go forward if major obstacles can be overcome.
Parking issues will be dealt with through signage, said Nickerson with respect to the two private lots that have seen market goers park in the past. That includes temporary signage to direct people where to park.
While that may be a short-term solution, he recognized the overall parking situation in the downtown core needs to be addressed by the Town in the long-term.
“We shouldn’t put things on hold until this is solved,” he said.
As for local businesses in the downtown area concerned about competition, he recommended a vendor committee be formed with the Town, Tourism and Downtown Business Association to address concerns.
As well, he said, he would like to see local businesses in the market or taking advantage of more people being in the downtown area. That could include holding monthly lunch and learn sessions with marketing and retail display experts.
Finally, the challenge of not needing additional municipal resources to run a Saturday market means Canmore Business and Tourism will be responsible for that day.
“Expanding the market may place unrealistic demands on Town of Canmore resources,” Nickerson said, adding in the long-term who is responsible for the marketplace may have to be looked at.
He said the fees will have to be structured to cover the costs, including overtime for the streets and road department to set up and take down the Civic Centre plaza.
This year, the market’s hours are also proposed to change from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. for both days.
That, said Nickerson, should address concerns of nearby residents over noise early in the morning and allow more people to go to the market after they are finished work.