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First new vendors announced for transformed Lexington Market as developers promise to increase Black-owned businesses

Developers announced the first two of around 50 vendors that will anchor a revamped Lexington Market, and said they are committed to increasing the number of Black-owned businesses at one of the nation’s oldest markets.

Sausage Master, a sausage and snowball stand that opened in the current Baltimore market in 1986, will move over to the new location, which is under construction. Newcomer Fleurs D’Ave, a Black-owned florist on North Avenue, will bring its second location to Lexington Market.

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With steel framing in place, work progresses on the new South Market building at Lexington Market on Paca Street.
With steel framing in place, work progresses on the new South Market building at Lexington Market on Paca Street. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

Owner Ashley Wylie said she and her husband and business partner grew up going to the market and look forward to bringing “new flavor” to the Baltimore institution. “We’re just excited to bring our beautiful flowers and the design of our stall to Lexington Market.”

Seawall Development, the Remington-based group overseeing the redesign of the city-owned market, said they reviewed more than 300 applications from prospective vendors and will announce the rest through the end of the year.

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In community meetings, area residents voiced their hopes for the future market, which was founded in 1782. It is managed on behalf of the city by Lexington Market Inc. and Baltimore Public Markets Corp.

Among residents’ concerns, said Seawall Development spokeswoman Katie Marshall, was a desire to see more Black-owned businesses; currently, just 5% of stalls are Black-owned. Marshall declined to provide an exact target for the future, but said Seawall would “significantly increase Black ownership in the new market.” She added that over 50% of vendor applicants represented Black-owned businesses, an “encouraging” metric.

Marshall said the format of the market — wherein 100-year-old businesses operate side by side with upstarts — makes it an appealing choice for many in the current economic climate. “The kind of magic of Lexington Market has always been this mix of experience levels,” she said. “It’s an incredible opportunity” for business owners.

While the area has faced a drop in foot traffic during the pandemic, as many office workers have transitioned to working remotely, Marshall said Lexington Market has benefited from its proximity to the University of Maryland Medical Center, whose staff frequent the market.

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“We continue to have a strong relationship with UMD,” she said.

Additionally, a new mixed-use residential development and a hotel are set to open in the area.

The design of Lexington Market has gone through various iterations. The current, scaled-back project involves building a new shed for vendors on the site of a former parking lot while keeping the market’s east building open. Construction is projected to cost $40 million. When complete, the market will have two levels, an upper one primarily for prepared foods and a lower one focused on fresh foods. The redesigned market will include 10 kiosks for pop-up shops, short-term tenants with leases ranging from a week to up to three months.

The new market is set to open early next year; its construction, which broke ground in February 2020, was affected only minimally by the pandemic, Marshall said.

City officials are reviewing proposals to redevelop the market’s west building, across Paca Street. That property includes a network of below-ground vaults that was rediscovered in the 1950s. It also includes an abandoned nightclub, built into the vaults and shut down in 1988.

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