City’s subsidized contributions to Lenexa Public Market decrease as it grows revenues

As the Lenexa Public Market enters its third year of operations, city staff report that the market is moving toward self-sufficiency.

As the Lenexa Public Market continues to grow in popularity and revenue streams, city staff report the market is inching closer to the city’s goal of self-sufficiency.

The Lenexa city council in December 2018 had agreed to subsidize public market operations for two years using transient guest tax revenues generated by hotels. Mike Nolan, assistant to the city manager, said the city will consider making a similar transfer during upcoming budget discussions.

Expenditures for the public market were about $369,000 in 2019, and revenues were about $225,000, so the city transferred roughly $143,000 from the tourism and convention fund to make up the difference.

That is a slight drop from 2018, when the city used about $157,000 from the tourism fund to make up for the public market’s expenses of $329,000. Revenues were about $172,000 that year.

Carmen Chopp, public market manager, said the Lenexa Public Market is fulfilling their goals of place making and economic activity in the city.

Meanwhile, vendors in the public market saw a 35% growth in sales — about $500,000 — from about $1.3 million in 2018 to about $1.8 million last year.

“What a year it was: It was a very successful year,” said Carmen Chopp, manager of the public market, to the city council on Tuesday.

Chopp said the public market saw a jump in traffic around May 2019, just before the Lenexa City Center Library opened. Market activity and sales have been higher since that point and have also been fairly consistent since then.

Into this year, the public market will focus on creating more “experiential dining opportunities” such as The Great Lenexa Luau and Utepils, Chopp said, noting that these types of events are what customers seem to be looking for.

City staff and vendors at the public market have also been collaborating more with each other on placemaking efforts. For instance, the market hosts family night on Wednesdays, and that is growing in popularity, Chopp said.

A few councilmembers voiced their own enthusiasm for the public market’s role as a place maker in the city.

“You can feel the community that’s being generated in there,” said Councilmember Corey Hunt.

The kitchen on the second floor of the public market has also seen an increase in activity as well, Chop noted. The upstairs serves as a gathering space for business meetings, youth clubs, board game nights and other activities. The kitchen is also a revenue stream with private rentals and cooking classes.

The kitchen also functions as a test run for future vendors who may land a spot downstairs. For instance, African Dream has served traditional West African dishes as a pop-up restaurant in the kitchen; Chopp said the owners are ready for a space downstairs.

“Some things you can’t necessarily put a dollar figure on, and I would say that’s where the kitchen probably lies for us,” Chopp said.