Looking for hummus? How about fresh fruits, vegetables, candles, gourmet juices or dried pasta? Well, you're in luck, if you can make your way downtown on Saturday. The Wheaton French Market at Main Street and Liberty Drive takes place every Saturday through Nov. 1., between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.
In its 14th year, the Wheaton French Market is operated by Bensidoun USA Inc. In 1953, Frenchman Rolland Bensidoun began operating open-air markets in and around Paris. Rolland introduced his sons Pascal and Sebastian to the family business and in 1986 the family expanded operations to the United States. Currently, Bensidoun operates both open-air and year-round indoor French Markets in Illinois, New York and Michigan.
As operator of the markets, Bensidoun is responsible for site management, including insurance, setup, tear-down, waste removal and other tasks. Individual vendors are responsible for their kiosks within the Market.
Vendors and shoppers alike enjoy an atmosphere that is relaxed and comfortable. In fact, many friendships have been forged over the years between vendors and repeat customers.
"The people are really friendly and fun to deal with," noted Dale Sibley, owner of Sibley Nursery in West Olive, MI. Sibley has been making the trip to the Wheaton French Market every year since its opening and says the people are a big reason why.
"I look forward to seeing my customers every year. A lot of my plants now call Wheaton home," Sibley said, as he stood among the plants and perennials that made the trip with him.
But make no mistake, this is still a business and Sibley is well aware of it.
"For me, business has been decent, considering the economy," he said.
Across the market, Geneva-based Windy Acres Farm owner Daryl Srail echoed Sibley's thoughts.
"The Wheaton French Market is an important integral part of our business," she said. "It provides a resource to sell our goods. We depend on the Market to distribute our goods, rain or shine."
According to Bensidoun's website, the company sees the French Markets as providing "a municipality and community group with the opportunity to establish a colorful, vibrant French-style market" while providing shoppers with a "new, diverse shopping experience."
Bensidoun is keenly aware as well that the bottom line is what makes the French Markets successful, noting that in addition to "increased sales tax revenue from both area merchants and market vendors" the Markets also "create a sense of community and excitement as well as commercial vitality in town centers." An additional benefit of the French Market is that it also "provides the retail entrepreneur with the ability to get started in the business for relatively little capital."