Liberty Street Market opens in Winston-Salem

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Shoppers see what's for sale at the grand opening of the Liberty Street Market Saturday, October 11, 2014. (Lauren Carroll/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — For Council Member Vivian Burke and others, the grand opening of the Liberty Street Market on Saturday morning represented a significant step in the long journey to revive what was once a thriving business district in Winston-Salem, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

Burke, who has represented the Northeast Ward since 1977, said she and others went to San Francisco, Calif., in the 1980s to get an idea of how vendor markets worked elsewhere. In the mid-1990s, a group from Winston-Salem traveled to Nashville, Tenn., in order to help craft a development plan for the Liberty Street Corridor.

That hard work over many years has led to the Liberty Street Market.

“You’ve taken something old and given it a new twist,” Burke said, referring to Mercedes Miller, whose company, Mercedes-Empowers Inc., will run the market. Miller works under contract for Liberty Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit group that’s been working for years to revitalize the area. Miller is the group’s director.

Council Member Derwin Montgomery said three words were critical in thinking about Liberty Street Market – “see it through.”

“I think we have a good foundation, and we have things going up that will stand the test of time,” he said.

The market features a number of vendors who sell fresh produce, clothing, hand lotion and other products. Miller said the market will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. It will be year-round and will host special events, including the Busta Brown Fall Music Festival on Nov. 1.

The market sits on city-owned land that was acquired to help the Liberty CDC with a different project that never took off. The city spent about $35,000 designing the market and almost $307,000 building it. Aside from the market, the city has spent more than $4 million in the area: $3 million in Liberty Street improvements, $336,500 under a program to improve business structures, $503,000 to buy land, $160,000 for CDC operations, and $24,000 in neighborhood revitalization money.

The city also loaned Liberty CDC $116,000.

Other development is happening in the area as well. Larry Wood, CEO of the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem, received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help transform the Cleveland Avenue neighborhood.

Tarreyton Carson of Zael’s Florist, one of the vendors at the market, said he expects the market to grow.

“It’s going to bring Liberty Street back to where it was,” Carson said.

Shawn Starnes, whose father, Jerry Gilmore III, owns Gilmore’s Funeral Home Inc. next door to the market, said she loves the fact that the market is open.

“I like the diversity of items and the ability to get fresh produce,” she said.

Starnes said she plans to come back to the market.

Carson said the Liberty Street Market is important because some people who live in the area may not be able to travel to other vendors markets.

Gilmore of Gilmore’s Funeral Home said he’s been in the area since 1962, and he wants to see the area continue to develop.

“This is the heart of the city, and when you’re the heart of the city, you’re part of the vital organ of the city,” he said.