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Winter HarborMarket debuts at the Kenosha Masonic Center
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Winter HarborMarket debuts at the Kenosha Masonic Center

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They came, they saw, they sampled.

On Saturday, HarborMarket patrons — longtime and first time — came to check out the new location of Kenosha’s Winter HarborMarket.

After spending the first 13 seasons at the Rhode Center for the Arts, HarborMarket unveiled its new winter location at the Kenosha Masonic Center, 115 56th St.

Some 30 vendors of produce, cooked foods, cooking ingredients and art displayed their wares on Saturday.

“We’re being stormed,” said Curzio Caravati, HarborMarket manager. “In the first half-hour we surpassed attendance that we typically had during the first hour at the Rhode. We had 300 in the time we usually have 200.”

A volunteer at the door was keeping close tabs on attendance because the Masonic Lodge space has an occupancy limit, whereas space in the lobby of the Rhode Center for the Arts was virtually unlimited, said Caravati.

Natural lighting, abundant parking

Located directly south of the Kenosha Public Museum and just east of the Place de Douai near the Southport Marina, the contemporary space offers natural lighting from windows on three sides and abundant parking, both on-street and in the museum parking lot.

The market space consists of three hallways running at right angles leading to an interior room. Vendors line the hallways and also occupy the walls of the interior room, the center of which is set up with café tables where market-goers can enjoy their food and beverage purchases.

Weather permitting, the new Winter HarborMarket can also offer space to eight outdoor vendors.

For the regular vendors who vended outdoors when the market was at the Rhode, the move being outdoors at another location was moot.

“It’s a better day today than it was last week,” said Angela Kysely, remarking on the weather. Kysely, who vends Auntie G.G.’s Provisions, was one of five vendors who were set up outdoors along 56th Street.

“However,” she added, “it might be challenging when the wind comes off the lake.”

Commercial kitchen access

Indoors, Winter HarborMarket “upgrades” include vendor access to the lodge’s commercial kitchen.

On Saturday, this afforded the chefs of Mijo’s Authenic Mexican Food, to add finishing touches to several of their products in real time.

Mijo’s began selling at this year’s outdoor summer market, making Saturday’s winter market a first for them, said co-owner Lorenzo Gomez Sr.

“We were impressed with the atmosphere, the harbor areas and the quality of the other vendors,” Gomez said.

The business’s menu includes Oaxaqueno (southern Mexican) style tamales with mole sauce, tortas and standard tacos.

As other family members heated tortillas on the stove top and baked up some flautas in the oven, Gomez noted that having other vendors around is extremely convenient. “We were able to purchase produce and eggs and trade other ingredients,” he said. “It’s like having a supermarket next door.”

Freemasons and HarborMarket

Coincidentally, Gomez is a freemason in his community of Lindenhurst, Ill., so said he felt right at home in the new space.

The arrangement between the freemasons and HarborMarket came about after a couple years of discussion, noted Wayne Budwick, Worshipful Master of Lodge #47 F. & A.M.

Members of the masonic lodge also got involved with cooking on Saturday by baking up some fresh Italian bread for sale and donating part of the proceeds to the Eldergarten operated by St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church.

Variety of opinions

Like all new or reframed ventures, however, opinions about HarborMarket’s new venue varied.

Some market patrons and vendors felt the space was a bit cramped, others were excited about having sunlight streaming through the windows.

“It’s tight, but it’s nice and bright,” said Roshan Elias, owner of Sugar and Spice Cupcakes.

“I think it’s a great location, bright and sunny,” said Sue Baskin, representative for Pappadelle’s, a pasta vendor.

Not having the option to hang banners on the wall behind their booths was a downside for one vendor.

“The facility is nice,” remarked Kenosha resident Victoria Reed.

“I liked the Rhode better, but the parking is easier here,” said her husband, Ken Reed.

“It’s too small, but the food is still good,” remarked Jim Hora of Paddock Lake.

‘More intimate’ space

“We have more linear space — space along the windows and walls—but the total square footage is smaller,” noted Ray Forgiani, HarborMarket president.

Although somewhat smaller, market organizers felt that this may turn out to be a plus.

“The smaller space makes the market more intimate,” said Laura Tyunaitis, HarborMarket board secretary.

“Day one is an opportunity to be flexible with room to improve,” Tyunaitis said.

“We’re still trying to figure out how the flow will go,” Caravati said. “To those who say it’s too crowded, I say, ‘We’re a victim of our success.’”

Kenosha Winter HarborMarket will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays from now through mid-May of 2020.

For more information visit kenoshaharbormarket.com or call 262-914-1252.

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