Busy summer ahead for Grand Markets Edmonton

Grand Markets Edmonton has launched its 2024 season, and there are some changes afoot for those looking for locally made food, beverages, and art.

The 124 Street Market, which runs on Thursdays in the vicinity of 108 Avenue, was able to expand after Audio Ark and Apple Dental Care offered up their parking lots to the market, founder Kirsta Franke told Taproot. The market can now house about 25 additional vendors and more food trucks.

In these inflationary times, such an expansion may be surprising, especially when it comes to artisanal bread, locally distilled vodkas, and clay earrings. But Franke said some small businesses are more game to take risks post-pandemic.

"It has been a really exciting time to see new businesses come out into the market and to see people trying new things," she said. "Maybe they had a failed business, but they're trying it back at a farmers' market stall and really rebuilding the connection with their consumers, testing out their products, because markets are a fantastic place to test a local product."

There are benefits for consumers, too, she said, as they can see their dollar staying in the local economy instead of going to a large corporation. "Maybe they're not buying every single item in their pantry or fridge, but they're definitely either finding something new or going back for something that they love, and they trust, and they believe in."

Franke said she has accepted applications from more brewers and distillers in recent years — customers may see Leduc's Badlands Distillery, St. Albert's Black Diamond Distillery, and Sherwood Park's Manual Labour Beer among the offerings this season. There has also been an increase in women entrepreneurs, she said.

She has noted a decrease in the number of food trucks across the region. "They're expensive to run and to find the best location to connect with a consumer audience," Franke said. This year, there will be a rotating selection of four food trucks at the 124 Street location each week, including El Mero Mero Taquería, Flipside BBQ, and Veggie Delights.

Grand Markets is also introducing a new Saturday market in the Canadian Tire parking lot at South Edmonton Common starting on June 1. And it is continuing last year's pop-up night markets. The 102 Avenue location returns on June 2, and the markets will run until mid-October.

Shoppers visit the 124 Grand Market in 2023.

The 124 Grand Market is expanding to about 75 vendors in 2024. (124 Grand Market/Facebook)

The story of farmers' markets north of the river has been somewhat fraught over the past five years.

City Market Downtown was located on 104 Street until 2019, when it moved to an indoor location in The Quarters. Franke was in talks to set up a new, smaller market in the vacated outdoor space. However, a few weeks later, City Market Downtown reversed course and decided to return to the street on Saturdays. At the time, Franke told Taproot it was "surprising news" and that she had been working on a centrally located downtown market for some time.

During the pandemic, Grand Markets operated the outdoor farmers' market on 104 Street. "Through that, there was obviously issues, whether it was the pandemic, or there was some infighting. There was some competition with the indoor location launching at the same time, but we really tried to make that work for three years," Franke said. "Obviously, there were many wins from that project, but it's evident that there's still a lot of work to do downtown."

In January of this year, the Edmonton Downtown Farmers' Market declared bankruptcy and dissolved. About a month later, the Edmonton Downtown Business Association announced it would bring a new farmers' market to 104 Street on Saturdays starting on June 15. The EDBA said it would work with former board members of the indoor market to get the outdoor 104 Street market running.

When asked if the 2024 return of the downtown market represents unwelcome competition, Franke said a successful downtown market will mean her vendors are successful, too, as many vendors set up shop at several markets across the region.