Monday, August 20, 2012

West Side Market Celebrates 100 Years

Cleveland's famous West Side Market celebrates 100 Years this year, and the year-long celebration is coming to a close with the Centennial Gala on Saturday, November 3rd.

I've bit my tongue at responding to the outrage and negativity that exploded on Twitter and Facebook when the $250 Sous Chef (general admission) tickets went on sale last week. Many people stood up for the event, citing that it is a fundraiser for the West Side Market and the list of local and national chefs is outstanding. However, the bad outweighed the good (at least in my feeds). While I understand that this price-point is out of many people's budgets, I do not think that it justifies the outpouring of negative comments through social media. Yes, it is a HEFTY price to pay for an event ticket for many of us. Yes, the information about exactly what portion of ticket sales or where the money is going has not been fully disclosed. Yes, many great chefs that support the West Side Market on a weekly basis are not included in the lineup of participating chefs. But, does any of this really justify the things that I saw online from some people? No. As someone that works in the local event industry...I can tell you that $250 a ticket (or more) is not unheard of. In fact, it is quite common for a fundraiser. I just volunteered at a charity event on Saturday night that was $250 a ticket at a prestigious golf club with wine tastings and upscale catered food from just the in-house chef. Certainly nothing compared to a once in a lifetime event, like the Centennial Gala!

Here is a list of the participating chefs:
  • - April Bloomfield, New York City: The Spotted Pig, The Breslin Bar, The John Dory Oyster Bar
  • - Andrew Carmellini, New York City (born in Seven Hills, Ohio): Locanda Verde, The Dutch
  • - Britt-Marie Culey, Cleveland: Coquette Patisserie
  • - Karen DeMasco, New York City: Locanda Verde
  • - Chris Hodgson, Cleveland: Hodges, Hodge Podge and Dim and Den Sum Food Trucks
  • - Paul Kahan, Chicago: One Off Hospitality Group including Blackbird, avec, The Publican, Big Star, The Violet Hour
  • - Jeff Michaud, Philadelphia: Co-owner Osteria and  Amis
  • - Jonathon Sawyer, Cleveland: Greenhouse Tavern, Noodlecat, Street Frites
  • - Michael Symon, Cleveland: Lola, Lolita, Roast (Detroit), B-Spot
  • - Marc Vetri, Philadelphia: Vetri, Osteria, Amis, Alla Spina
  • - Eric Williams, Cleveland: Momocho, Happy Dog
  • - Paul Minnillo, Cleveland: Flour
  • - Rocco Whalen, Cleveland: Fahrenheit, Rosie & Rocco’s
  • - Andrew Zimmern: Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern; Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World; Bizarre Foods America on the Travel Channel
The $250 ticket includes valet parking, tasting of chef's signature dishes, open bar, and a commemorative gift from Great Lakes Brewing Company. Personally, I am looking forward to a fancy night at the West Side Market celebrating its history and sampling food from some fabulous chefs. Would I have liked to see more representation of our local culinary scene? Sure. Do I understand that many of you may not be able to attend because of the ticket price? Yes, I get it.

I think that you should focus on the events that you can attend, and support celebrating the WSM. There is something for everyone. We should all be rejoicing in the fact that we have something like the West Side Market, and that it is still alive and well after 100 years. Cleveland is lucky.

About the West Side Market
The West Side Market is Cleveland’s historic public market and home to more than 100 diverse vendors offering fine meats and seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, dairy and cheese products, fresh flowers, ready-to-eat foods, herbs, candy and nuts. An estimated one million visitors from all over the world shop the Market every year, drawn by television programs that feature the West Side Market on the Travel Channel and Food Network.

The West Side Market’s beginnings date back to 1840 and were commissioned by the City of Cleveland. The current building took 14 years to build at a cost of $734,890.72. Whether for first-time shoppers or regular customers, the West Side Market remains a treasured tradition in Cleveland and continues to offer an authentic and culturally diverse shopping experience where many stalls have remained under individual family control for much of the life of the Market — in a few cases dating back to its 1912 opening. Today, the Market is owned and operated by the City of Cleveland.

So, "R" and I purchased our tickets to the gala this morning (now the website says "Sold Out" again) and I personally can't wait to attend. I know that many will not be able to come, but I hope that you consider splurging for this event or attending the free Street Festival and Parade on October 7th to help support the WSM. If you need me, we'll be holed up in the house saving up to pay off the credit card purchase...but I do think (and hope) that it will be worth it.

UPDATE--- This afternoon, they announced that they will be adding a "People's Party" at Crop Bistro on Friday, November 2nd from 9PM - 2AM for just $25. Approximately 1,000 tickets will be sold, and any local chef can participate that is interested in contributing. It will feature informal potluck-style food, live music, cash bar, and auction. Tickets will be available at Cleveland Food Rocks, but they haven't gone on sale yet. everyone really can afford to support the West Side Market. A free festival and parade, a $25 party, and $250 gala. Pick your poison. Hope to see all of Cleveland out celebrating!


Alicia at Poise in Parma said...

THANK YOU for writing this post.

Your point about $250 per ticket not being unheard of is exactly the point I made to a few friends last week. By the end of the year, I will have either worked/attended/volunteered at more than a handful of events priced at that level. In my eyes, they are following the traditional fundraiser go-to plan: big kickoff a few months out, formal big ticket gala for some, and a more reasonably priced outing for the majority. And since this is such a big occasion, I bet you'll be very happy you decided to attend.

Alana said...

great post, Katrina. people love to bitch about things - especially when hiding behind their avatars.

Modern Musings said...

Thank you for writing this. These are my sentiments exactly. My feed was filled with negativity too and it was just so sad to see. Especially when we have popular events that are in the same price range every year. Cheers!

Allison M. said...

Well said.

So much negativity last week for what?

alexa @clevelandsaplum said...

GREAT post and position, girlfriend!

Crystal @EatDrinkClev said...

I totally understand the cost - but I totally can't afford it...especially with an upcoming wedding! I shop at the Market weekly and love them. Wish I could attend the gala of course but I'll certainly be celebrating at the other events. LOVE the newly announced event at Crop. The best thing about Cleveland is that we have SO many fabulous choices. There's no reason to ever eat bad food at any price point. Great post.

kakaty said...

Having worked in fundraising for over 15 years I see this being used in the future as a textbook case of what not to do when establishing a fundraising campaign. They did part of the job (glitzy gala to attract the wealthy to kick off a capital campaign) without doing the required PR work. Proof positive that those who think that fundraising and event planning is "easy" have never done it. In fact, it was the talk of the office and on-line professional forums I'm in over the last week.

As a fan of the WSM and someone who has been excited for the 100th celebrations I don't think they did a good job of promoting the other events nor did they do their job in learning anything about their target market. If they did they could have easily anticipated the reaction to the price and done some legwork to combat the negativity. Having talked to several people in the business over the weekend, it seems as several people offered to help them with this aspect but WSM turned them down. And don't get me started on selling tickets to a fundraising event without disclosing how much, if any, is tax deductible - that's just straight up bush league.

I do not begrudge them the price - I knew as soon as it was announce that I would sell out. And the complaining about lack of CLE chefs is a bogus one to me... we don't know who was approached and turned it down, and not every chef can handle having 400+ portions ready for a picky crowd. And, if the WSM wants national attention then they need chefs from outside CLE to get that draw. But, again, these are things that could have been tampered with a good PR team.

And now, from what I read about the People's Party in Scene - I can't tell if any of that party will benefit the WSM. Seems to me it's just some people taking advantage of the situation to get their own names in the news cycle (i.e tickets not being sold by WSM, instead being sold by . Again, could have been avoided if the WSM did their homework before the announcement.

Bite Buff said...

Kakaty- I appreciate your feedback, and agree with you. I didn't even really know about everything else that was/is going on to celebrate this year. Poor campaign overall, and poor response to the feedback when the gala tickets did go on sale. Symon seemed to be the only one responding through social media, which isn't fair to him. But, at the end of the day...I don't want to miss this event, and hope that it will be as special as I think it should be. I hope that more information comes out about the People's Party, and that people will support this milestone in any way thy can.

Jen @ Why CLE? said...

Great post! There is plenty to get involved with at all price levels. You also do a great job of addressing the concerns and issues of both sides of the "argument." At the end of the day, everyone has some way to support and celebrate and that's awesome. And you'll never hear me complain about national chefs checking out the amazing town of CLE! Bring 'em in!

Bite Buff said...

First 600 tickets of the People's Party sold out in 20 hours, and 200 more released today. I purchased mine! No more will be released, so don't hesitate.