Like butter and water
|By Gretchen Cochran|
Lansing City Market’s popcorn man leaves for Old Town
Chad Jordan is a big man. His palm swallows another’s when he shakes hands. His smile is like Magic Johnson’s: It stretches from ear to ear. His persona fills a room. So when the 37-year-old decided to pull his popcorn business out of Lansing’s new City Market before its vendors reached full stride, his absence made a big hole — not just in floor space but also in the loss of his driving personality.
It was a tough decision, he said. Back in the old market building, he’d been the vendor association president, cheerleading for the controversial move. He’d been at the market for two years and could see the potential of a new building, closer to the river and folded into the festival concepts the mayor touted. He’d stood with the dignitaries at the groundbreaking and been at the new building’s beam signing.
But then the process slowed. Contracts had to be re-bid. The opening was delayed from December to January. And vendors’ fees started to add up. Jordan says promises were broken and vendor costs mushroomed. Costs that were to be carried by the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority, which manages the market, were deferred to the merchants, he said, and his projected move-in expenses grew to $5,000.
Market manager John Hooper was saddened when Jordan said he would be moving his 2-year-old company to Old Town from the new market building, referred to by some as the City Pole Barn. Knowing Jordan as the hard-charging, get-it-done type, Hooper thinks Jordan simply couldn’t tolerate the delays. But if he’d stayed on board, he could have been doing business this week, and the expenses would have been half what Jordan projected.
Hooper denies that the prepared-food vendors at the market are being abused with huge cost add-ons.
“From Day One we told the vendors the build out would be their responsibility,” he said. But most of the vendors, many who had been at the market for decades, were used to the city, or Hooper himself, doing things for them without charge, he said. On occasion, the code compliance officers would look the other way for minor infractions, he added.
“Things are different now, and properly so,” Hooper said.
With the pending move, numerous regulatory bodies were involved, including the Ingham County Health Department, the Michigan Department of Agriculture, the Lansing Fire Department, various building inspectors, and more. Loopholes were tightened.
On the other hand, on moving day, the plumbing was ready, the walls were sealed, electrical outlets were upgraded to 220 where necessary, the fire-sprinkler system was installed, and two 199,000 BTU gasfired water heaters were in place, all at no charge to the vendors.
But the vendors were asked to pay for utility hook-ups.
And then came the bird issue.
Anyone who’s attended events at the Lansing Center knows that with its high ceilings and clerestory windows come birds. They
“The Health Department doesn’t want the birds pooping in the food,” said one vendor who asked not to be identified.
The canopies were a surprise, Hooper said, and the expense was passed on to the vendors, although LEPFA, which manages the
The only other charge passed onto vendors preparing food on site was $650 each for the plumbing hook-up, Hooper said.
Why would anyone invest so much in equipping a rental space? Hooper says if vendors
“Those things are not the property of the market,” he said.
Hooper wishes Jordan was still with the market crew.
“But I understand when you’re not open, you’re not selling.”
He had no criticism of the plethora of inspectors that have slowed the process.
“I wouldn’t expect that.”