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Central Market Organizers Wary of Council Member’s Offer

Former Eastland vendors call for permanent solution

Central Market
Co-founder Theodore Williams (middle) at the first Eastland Open Air Market on Aug. 15, 2015. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

Backed by a slate of Republican candidates that hope to join him on Charlotte City Council later this year, District 6 rep Tariq Bokhari held a press conference on Wednesday announcing that he and his fellow conservatives had found a solution to a months-long issue facing vendors displaced from an open-air market at the former Eastland Mall site in February.

Organizers who represent those vendors, however, called the announcement a “one-sided” decision and told Queen City Nerve on Friday that they won’t be attending this weekend’s temporary market in Uptown.

Jorge Castaneda co-founded Central Market LLC in February after vendors at the open-air flea market he helped launch in 2015 were forced from the property. The organization represents about 110 vendors who once sold their wares at the site. Castaneda addressed Charlotte City Council during a public forum on Monday, waving his credit card bills in the air and telling city leaders that he could lose his truck if he missed one more payment after losing the market. 

On Friday, he told Queen City Nerve that neither he nor the vendors he represents were ready to take Bokhari up on his offer of a space for a temporary market in a parking lot at the corner of East 7th and North Brevard streets, across from First Ward Park, until they received more details.

He said most vendors from Central Market LLC have dispersed to smaller markets around east Charlotte and don’t want to move until they have a permanent location. 

“Us vendors, we are looking for a place to sell long-term,” Castaneda said. “We don’t want to move our clients to that place and it’s going to be only for one weekend, two weekends, one month, and then we have to move again.” 

Héctor Vaca, an organizer with Action NC who has been working alongside Queen City Community Law Firm to represent the interests of the vendors, said he asked Charlie Mulligan, a Republican city council candidate who helped find a space for the temporary market, to postpone Wednesday’s press conference until vendors could look at the details of what was being offered. 

“We were told in advance that this press conference was going to be held on Wednesday, but only a few hours in advance, and that this weekend was going to be, according to the contact, that it was going to be a one-time thing,” Vaca told Queen City Nerve on Friday.

“The vendors decided that, thank you, but it wouldn’t work out to go this one weekend because it would confuse customers,” he continued. “They want the long-term solution so their customers will know where to regularly go. We communicated that to Charlie Mulligan … we asked that the press conference not be held in order for all sides to first come together and have agreement, but they decided to hold the press conference anyway, so it was kind of a one-sided decision.”

Bokhari told WSOC on Friday that more than 100 vendors had signed up for this weekend’s market, which will run from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, but it’s unclear how many of those vendors are with Central Market LLC or were displaced from the Eastland site. 

Vaca and Castaneda agreed they were thankful that Bokhari appears to be working toward finding solutions for the vendors but were not ready to commit to anything until they were brought to the table to learn all the details behind what’s being proposed. 

“We don’t know who’s going to show up this weekend to the council member’s event,” Vaca said. “We’re not saying nobody’s going to show up, because they’ve made the announcement, but the only thing we’re saying is how people feel, the preference is the long-term solution. We look forward to sitting down with the council member to learn about the details and to have it all down in writing for our attorney to review the paperwork.” 

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