The Market (7155 Wisconsin Ave.) is a Bethesda institution. But even institutions — it opened in 1932 as a way for women to sell produce and homemade goods during the Great Depression — need an occasional refresh.
That’s why Market leadership is preparing to unveil a new, outdoor Friday Market it hopes will be less flea market and more community gathering spot.
“With the construction and some of the things planned all around us, the demographics are changing,” said Farm Women’s Market Board member John O’Beirne. “We want to start reflecting what the community wants.”
Starting on July 18 and running until Nov. 28, this year’s version of the new Friday Market will go from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each week and look more like the food truck-friendly ones that have become well established across the country.
The vendors inside the historic market building will remain. But after some discussion and a customer survey, O’Beirne said it was clear to those who run the cooperative that some change was needed on the part of the property that fronts busy Wisconsin Avenue.
“The survey showed enough of a trend,” O’Beirne said. “It makes sense to cater to that office crowd but we also want to hit that sweet spot where we also cater to people heading to the beach or the mountains for the weekend with prepared food. Or, a lot of times if you’re coming off the Metro after a work week, you might not feel like cooking.”
The Market is looking for established food vendors with operations in other markets throughout the region.
County planners are working on a new master plan that could bring new zoning and a new wave of development to the area. O’Beirne said the market wants to be a part of that momentum, perhaps by partnering for events with organizations such as the Bethesda Urban Partnership or Federal Realty, the developer that manages nearby Bethesda Row.
The Market is also mindful of the Purple Line, the 16-mile light rail that if built as planned by 2020, will bring plenty of potential customers to the property’s doorstep. O’Beirne reached out to market operators across the region and country to see what is working for them.
“We’re thinking long-term,” O’Beirne said. “We want to start laying the groundwork and foundation for what’s going to happen two or three years from now.”
Photos via Bethesda Farm Women’s Market