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Eastern Market Corporation

2934 Russel Street
Detroit, Michigan 48207

Randall Fogelman

By MJ Galbraith
September 11, 2013

Randall Fogelman is the son of a podiatrist whose practice was located on Vernor Highway and Waterman in Detroit. Randall logged a lot of miles with his family traveling from their home in the northwest suburbs to the city. And though the Fogelmans already had a well-established affinity for Detroit, it wasn't until Randall spent the summer of 1993 working at the Detroit Institute of Arts that he knew that he wanted to live here. Randall transferred to Wayne State University from Michigan State University and moved to the city in 1994. Besides spending a year and a half earning a Masters in urban planning from the University of Michigan, Randall has lived in the city ever since.
In the time between attending Wayne State University and becoming the Vice President of Business Development at Eastern Market Corporation in 2007, Randall has worn a lot of hats. He has worked for a local developer renovating buildings in the Cass Corridor, started the still-running Detroit Spice Company, acted as Director of Marketing for New Center Council, and ran the old Comerica TasteFest. Now, in his position with Eastern Market, Randall has grown the historic farmers market considerably, having spearheaded investment in everything from improved infrastructure to food assistance programs. Today, Eastern Market has more vendors than it has had in over 100 years, with some Saturdays seeing 100% vendor occupancy rates. More vendors are serving more customers too.
"It's an anchor institution," says Randall. "It had it's potential. We don't credit ourselves with building this amazing market. Let's say there are 40,000 people coming down now, there were already 30,000 people [coming down before], every Saturday."
Much of that bump in vendors and customers can be attributed to that things Randall and Eastern Market Corporation (established in 2006 to transfer the management of the historic market district away from the city) have done with the place. Coming onto the job, Randall was tasked with making shed renovations, something that has played a key role in the market's growth. Shed 2 saw $1.2 million in renovations alone, with new cement floors, column bases with electrical outlets, paint, a galvanized roof, gutter system, lighting, a parking lot, and fencing all installed. Shed 3 was opened up with new windows and doors that let passersby know that there's life inside in the winter months. Shed 5 is nearing a second phase of renovations, including a community kitchen. New programming, too, has helped the market, with everything from workshops that aid new food entrepreneurs to yoga. Under Fogelman's leadership, the market has developed a whole program for local specialty food producers, including a tremendous number of resources to help them get started. 
One of the most successful programs Randall has been a part of has been the institution of a Bridge Card program at Eastern Market, allowing citizens on government food assistance the ability to purchase from market vendors.
"The Bridge Card program here was about making the market more accessible," says Randall. "The bottom line is that it was just the right thing to do. I worked with the USDA and got that application and set up a very efficient and easy-to-use program. We account for something like 38% of food stamp dollars spent at farmers markets in Michigan. When we started, we were the fifth or sixth market in Michigan to accept food stamps. Now there's over 100."
The program helps make the market accessible to everybody. Started in 2007, the program has surpassed $1.2 million in sales at Eastern Market. To Randall, it just makes sense. "It's easy. We're going to make it more efficient. It's more money in the growers and vendors' pockets. It's more buying power for people who often have the least access for buying fresh fruits and vegetables."
The Eastern Market district as a whole is doing better business than it has in decades, with new businesses popping up in surrounding buildings. Eastern Market Corporation is the economic development group for the district and Randall says he's constantly fielding calls from people who want to open businesses there. He maintains a desire for the area to keep its old world charm, however, and respects the history while making necessary improvements in infrastructure and access. It's a unique place; a place with something for everyone.
"This place is the one place where organically everybody comes together regardless of race, age, culture, economics. You look around on Saturday and it's really a diverse place and that doesn't happen very often in our region," says Randall. "I think that's one of the very special things about it."

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

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