Chattanooga Market Is Back published Friday 4/29/11 by Holly Leber

This year, Chattanooga Market will have to start relying on the kindness of strangers.

As the market celebrates its 10th opening this Sunday, it will boast a growth in handmade artisan products, home-grown produce, farm-raised eggs and home-baked goods. It also will see a growth in insurance rates — more than $50,000 since 2008 — according to general manager Paul Smith.

“We’ve never had an insurance claim,” said Smith. “This is just a general liability (increase).”

He attributed the rate hike to simple risk assessment based on the market’s growth — there are more than 150 vendors each Sunday and about 350,000 visitors per season. Possible insurance claims could be attributed to food recalls or visitor injury, for neither of which, Smith said, there has ever been a claim.

One measure, he said, that will not be taken is charging admission to the market.

“Our ultimate goal is to keep it a free event,” said market spokesperson Melissa Siragusa. “We’re going to make every effort to try and do that.”

Efforts that will include accepting monetary donations from those who wish to support Chattanooga Market. In addition, one parking lot will be designated a VIP lot and will carry a $5 charge. Eighty percent of parking will remain free of charge. Smith said the market also is looking to increase sponsor dollars.

But the best thing visitors can do to support the market, Siragusa emphasized, is simply to buy.

“The prices are very competitive,” she said. “When you buy [at the market], all the money goes back into the local community.”

Vendors, Smith said, pay the market a 10 percent commission with a $250 cap, as well as a small booth fee, ranging from $20 to $35. Vendors set their own prices, and market officials have no control there. Their primary requirement, Smith said, is “they have to make it, bake it, sew it or grow it.”

In addition to numerous vendors, the market also boasts weekly live music performances, a cafe and weekly special events.

“It’s so representative of our city,” said Siragusa. “There’s nothing else like it in the region.”