Mercado on Fifth

Photo of Mercado on Fifth

Mercado on Fifth

i grew up in the quad cities i went to bettendorf high school and then went to college at university of wisconsin-madison i after that i did a lot of traveling and just kind of working abroad teaching english in other countries my grandfather he kind of roped me into helping him with this idea that he had to start a market in the flora santee neighborhood where he grew up which is located in moline and i started going into his office to help him um secure vendors and get a website going um you know get get press releases put out and um it just turned into a now five-year project that i'm still involved in and uh also that summer i met my husband yeah like i said the idea started for my grandfather i will say we did not really envision a night market at first um i really i don't actually know exactly what his his vision totally was um you know all he had was a logo and a space by the time he brought me on so it has really taken on a life of its own since then um first starting with the decision to be a night market that came from my my time in thailand where night markets are so popular so we made that decision very last minute just not wanting to compete with the farmers market and just just create something more lively with music and things like that so um that was a very late decision and i think a good one it has made us you know it's a huge part of of what we are really um it's so nice to just know that on friday you can go down there you don't have to look at your calendar and figure out okay is this one of the days um and also it's it's become just a consistent place for people to go on friday nights like we get a lot of people who are there every single week and it's just become part of their routine and they they rely on it for um for their kids entertainment it's very affordable uh place to hang out it's a place to see old friends and bring the whole family so we're happy to to provide that consistency what would you say motivates you day in and day out to keep this project running well um i think being at the events and seeing the demographic that's coming out every every friday night it makes it brings me a lot of joy to see such a broad range of ages enjoying this this environment um and that people can yeah like you can come with your your grandma and grandpa and mom and dad and teenage brother and you know a young sister and everybody is gonna have a good time i love seeing so many teens coming out dressing up and meeting their friends and having a great time and having a safe space for them and a cool space for them um you know creating memories i think that you know our youth are so important so um yeah that's that kind of keeps me [Music] going you

i grew up in the quad cities i went to bettendorf high school and then went to college at university of wisconsin-madison um i after that i did a lot of traveling and just kind of working abroad um teaching english in other countries my grandfather he kind of roped me into helping him with this idea that he had to start a market in the flora sandy neighborhood where he grew up which is located in moline and i started going into his office to help him um secure vendors and get a website going you know get get press releases put out and um it just turned into a now five year project that i'm still involved in and uh also that summer i met my husband so you mentioned mercado on fifth being the five-year project um could you tell us more about that absolutely his idea behind it was to spur economic development in that neighborhood which is mostly hispanic about 75 percent of the residents there identify as hispanic and when he grew up it was like that as well so he um he is a successful businessman um and his company group has become one of the largest hispanic-owned businesses in the us so this is kind of a way to give back and spur some of that entrepreneurial spirit um providing a platform for people to start their businesses but also to provide a gathering space for the hispanic community because there really aren't that places that are just for granite community it really celebrate the culture and and bring everybody together in a public space um so we definitely feel that we've accomplished those two things in the in the background we are helping aspiring entrepreneurs to get all their licenses and get everything in order they can dreams of starting a business we've helped over 25 new businesses actually that number has probably gone up in the last two weeks because we have some new vendors that we've helped this year so um definitely over 25 new businesses all of them minority owned so we're very proud of that fact back in 2016 we noticed that a lot of people did not have their food sanitation management license which is required to have a food business or be a manager in a kitchen it the class was not offered here in spanish so people had to go to chicago to take that that class and it is over two saturdays so it's a little bit of a hassle so we decided to start that class here and so far we've gotten dozens of people passed with that certification so not only helping mercado vendors and business owners but also managers of restaurants around here also we started a minority business grant program so so far we have given away over sixty two thousand dollars to minority-owned businesses they can apply for up to a thousand dollars for purchasing equipment that they need for their business so we've helped fund mercado vendors and non-mercado vendors um you know people wanting to purchase a pos system or generator or um like food warmers but then also like a computer um a soap industrial sewing machine even a braille machine so a lot of yeah a lot of things have been purchased through that grant um we also have collaborated a lot with the small business development center we are very lucky to have a small business development center here in the quad cities they do provide free business services to existing and aspiring business owners but previously did not offer any services in spanish so we did start by translating some of their free workshops into spanish and getting the word out to all of our community um those were well received so they actually hired on our inte our mercato intern as a graduate assistant with with the small business development center and they've continued with another spanish-speaking graduate assistant now they're looking for a full-time spanish-speaking business service provider so and then not only that they have inspired four other small business development centers across the state of illinois to hire spanish speaking providers so um we were happy that we're helping to break down the barriers to those free services i think you you touched on this a little bit i believe but could you run through again how the idea for the mercado and fifth started and why you chose to only do it once a week well um yeah like i said the idea started for my grandfather i will say we did not really envision a night market at first i really i don't actually know exactly what his his vision totally was um you know all he had was a logo and a space by the time he brought me on so it has really taken on a life of its own since then first starting with the decision to to be a night market that came from my my time in thailand where night markets are so popular so we made that decision very last minute just not wanting to compete with the farmer's market and just just create something more lively with music and things like that so um that was a very late decision and i think a good one it has made us you know it's it's a huge part of of what we are and how you know how people enjoy the mercado um the decision to do it once a week was to create that community and that consistency we did consider once every weeks or once a month especially when it just got to get just a lot of work for all the volunteers but really um it's so nice to just know that on friday you can go down there you don't have to look at your calendar and figure out okay is this one of the days um and also it's it's become just a consistent place for people to go on friday nights like we get a lot of people who are there every single week and it's just become part of their routine and they they rely on it for um for their kids entertainment it's very affordable uh place to hang out it's a place to see old friends and bring the whole family so we're happy to to provide that consistency and so would you say you have consistently the same vendors or is it does it mix up each week the food vendors mainly stay the same we do get a few um who are trying it out or maybe can't be there all the time due to other commitments so every market is there is a difference in vendors but we do have like our core group of people that are there every time and you can rely on um same thing with the retail vendors i think there's more variability with the retail mainly because a lot of people don't come down to mercado to shop they are coming down to eat and enjoy and and so with retail you know people will come down and get their name out maybe once a month so we get a kind of a rotation of retail vendors yeah i was just at the farmers market this sunday actually in davenport and have you been to that one i have is is it similar like i know you said it's more of like a nightlife kind of vibe to it at mercado on fifth is it a similar business model though um maybe similar model but very different experience for our patrons um there are tons of activities for kids so we have like a whole kids zone with bounce houses and we have non-profits that set up also just community partners like the putnam and john deere that are putting out activities for kids we also have tons of seating available so a lot of people come down get their food and and sit down and just enjoy the night um and then there's a dance floor you know you'll see a lot of people dancing throughout the night um it is a place to like get dressed up and meet you meet your friends like kind of a meet-up spot so in that way it's yeah different in different feeling and did you say you met your husband in the quad cities yeah he's actually an augustana grad oh really and and uh is a journalist i went through journalism or journalism school there yeah awesome so did you guys just decide to settle here because that's where he lived and you thought it was a nice place he loves the quad cities so do i um my family's here it just he had a great job so you know i had mercado to work on so it's just been natural to stay we both have connections to madison he's from madison and i went to school there so you know there's a possibility we would move there someday but um but for now we're very happy where we are is this your main job or since it's just on fridays do you do other stuff or is this do you basically plan it every week historically um i have been the director part-time so a hell of outside of things but now it has become very demanding um it's it's become a you know very large event and we are also expanding into davenport this year once a once a month we're we're doing more services for for vendors and business owners behind the scenes so we did hire a time director um her name is anna maria rocha so i am kind of just serving as a i don't know just a support so we check in with each other every day and i've got kind of a historical background i can help to guide her um help men help make some of the decisions so yeah so at the beginning of your business and when you decided to start it what kind of difficulties did you run into well um first i should clarify mercado on fifth is considered a non-profit um so we did have uh and then the difficulties you know forming a non-profit is is can be challenging um you really have to hire a lawyer to help you with that um we at the very beginning uh i would say it was it was hard because we didn't have the businesses that we envisioned lining fifth avenue uh they didn't exist so first year we did a pilot just a ten week pilot season in 2016 and there was one taco truck so um over that that winter we received a lot of calls from people who were interested in starting their businesses and wanting help and that's when all those services got started up um yeah so we really had to kind of create the the environment um slowly but it's uh it's coming to its own in starting this not-for-profit what kind of advice would you have for anybody else trying to do a similar thing [Music] oh hmm one of our biggest secrets to success is just including more people in in events for example if we book um if we book you know two bands you know they have their own you know that's two different fan bases that are going to come or a dance group that has you know 30 people in it we often book a dance group that's it's called the quad cities ballet folklorico the dancers are anywhere from ages 4 to 18 and so they bring their whole families you know when you include non-profits to come in and and different kids activities and more vendors like just everyone has their network that they're going to invite and just create a more stable customer base for and and just more lively environments so um collaboration for us has been key and also to not duplicate services so we could have been providing a lot of the kids activities ourselves but instead we asked organizations like the putnam museum to come and provide those there they've got a system down for it um so we try not to recreate the wheel with anything and just just have lots of partners being in the quad cities is a big asset i think people are very willing to collaborate and it is a small enough community where you can just develop relationships with a lot of key players and my net grown so much because of this project and i and and i feel really blessed um because knit community requests and everyone is willing to to help out and collaborate i feel like in a bigger city like chicago it would be harder to do that and then you have organizations that are way bigger and maybe don't have time for um for smaller events or you know you just i don't know i'm just speculating but maybe wouldn't develop as close of relationship with with different partners so i think this is a great size community for something like this have you ever considered the idea of expanding into the rest of the quad cities or even beyond the quad city region the the thought has crossed our mind especially because we are fairly mobile a lot of our event equipment fits into several trailers and then you know all of our vendors are mobile as well but so this you know going into davenport it is just once a month so we're having just five events this summer um so but uh you know we don't want to burn out ourselves or our staff so i think if we did try to expand into other cities somewhere like muscatine or something like that um we would have to have like a whole other crew of people like on on another day and even vendors as well because vendors um you know they they get burnt out and tired it's like so um but it can be done we have helped other communities to get started we've consulted with a group in iowa city who's getting their diversity market started this summer so they they got some some tips from us also there's a market starting in the little village of chicago so we had talks with them just to talk about best practices or just what we've learned so it's it's been nice to help kind of spread the model to other organizations who are who are able to do that did you get any advice when you started your company that really helped you grow oh [Music] i'm sure i did i got a lot i got a lot of advice starting up um i just surrounded myself with with a good crew of it was kind of like an advisory board um of really committed people in the community that that love mercado um so you know from global communities they really helped to to teach me how to write grants and just become a more legitimate non-profit how to how to do five year plans and and track data which is important for grants we had a lot of people in the hispanic community especially from lulac moline that helped with the programming of all the events you know giving giving advice on on bands and things like that and our current board president jane o'brien she's a fundraiser in the community and has helped help to guide a lot of the fundraising and also just the collaboration since she has so many relationships here so um yeah i would give another person advice um to just yeah surround yourself with good people and don't be afraid to ask questions like find those champions find find the people that really want the project to succeed and just you know keep them keep them close and in terms of your project did people come to you when they heard about it or did you how did you seek out those champions so to speak um i think actually a lot of those people were sought out by my grandfather originally because when he had the idea he he kind of put some feelers out like to to to people he knew were were great community leaders and who would get behind it so um so he uh kind of get helped get me started with that um since then we have um you know sought out different people themselves and then and then people have just come to us i can think of our our operations assistant who started as a volunteer in high school and just kept on coming just loved the environment and we just kept putting them to work and then so now he's he's on our payroll and and helping out a lot um and helping make decisions so what would you say motivates you day in and day out to keep this project running well um i think being at the events and seeing um the demographic that's coming out every every friday night it it makes it brings me a lot of joy to see such a broad range of ages enjoying this this environment um and that people can yeah like you can come with your your grandma and grandpa and mom and dad and teenage brother and you know a young sister and everybody is gonna have a good time um so i i think that's that's really special and that it has become such an important place for the hispanic community to to come out in droves and just celebrate culture and celebrate um their roots um so it's it's it's a beautiful thing um also just uh yeah that that's that's a big motivation for me it's just it's the gathering place aspect and recently i've noticed that it's it's become a very popular place for teens i love seeing so many teens coming out dressing up and meeting their friends and having a great time and having a safe space for them and a cool space for them um you know creating memories i think that you know our youth are so important so yeah that's that kind of keeps me going [Music]

Photo of Mercado on Fifth
Photo of Mercado on Fifth
Photo of Mercado on Fifth
Photo of Mercado on Fifth
Photo of Mercado on Fifth
Photo of Mercado on Fifth

All photos are taken by Quinn Kirkpatrick from dphilms.

Mercado on Fifth is a weekly night market that runs from 5:00pm - 10:00pm every Friday. Come down and experience the amazing atmosphere while also supporting small businesses in the Quad City area. For a full list of vendors click here.

If you want to be a part of Mercado on Fifth, you can either volunteer or become a vendor. That, or you can just show up and eat some good food with your friends. However you want to get involved is up to you. Eitherway, you will have a great time!

Make sure to watch the interviews for more information!

Located at: 5th Ave. & 12th St., Moline, IL 61265

Have a question? Call today: 305-934-5297

Check out Mercado on Fifth's Site: https://www.mercadoonfifth.org/

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