The new Flatbush Central Caribbean Marketplace, formerly known as Flatbush Caton Market, is in dire need of marketing and more connection to the community, said struggling vendors.

The building, located at 2123 Caton Ave in Brooklyn, has been open for over 5 months. About 14 vendors with booths at the marketplace met to voice their concerns. Most were elderly business owners who had preceded the new building and had been selling their wares in the community for over 17 years.

They complained about a lack of foot traffic and signage, and a difficult-to-find entrance, that played into their problems with generating business. A booth with high visibility outside and a food vendor with a large social media presence were doing fairly well, but the rest said they were struggling to make rent. Essentially, “dipping into their own pockets” in an unsustainable way.

One vendor said after the grand opening the attention dried up and it’s really that the surrounding community doesn’t know that they are there. Many of the elected officials that came to the opening didn’t buy anything, she said.

One man pointed out that the bar was not fully opened in the front of the building which deceptively made the rest of the building, where the market is, look closed or inactive.

“We are an immigrant community, here all of us have been through it. We know what it means to work hard, to raise children and make it in America,” said another vendor.

Urbane, the Black owned development company that built the new marketplace, said that “vendor success is at the core of Flatbush Central’s operating ethos and the market fully supports all vendors with the resources needed to be successful.” 

“To level the playing field for non-English speakers, Flatbush Central has arranged for a native Kreyol speaker to facilitate a customized business curriculum to help vendors grow and thrive,” said a spokesperson in a statement. 

The spokesperson said that the market offers its vendors ongoing training in marketing, pricing, merchandising, inventory management. The market offers direct assistance with brand strategy development, financial projections and pricing, signage, and external retail wholesale partnerships. Flatbush Central has ensured “affordable rent” for the vendors, said the spokesperson.

To address concerns about vendors’ access to capital, market operators conducted a survey of vendors’ needs and put in place a $25,000 peer-to-peer interest-free loan fund, said the spokesperson. 

“The market has additionally worked to garner awareness and support from and within the community as seen through Flatbush Central’s grand opening festivities inclusive of two days of programming and activations in tandem with 27 community partners and attended by news media, elected and appointed officials, and community stakeholders,” said the spokesperson. ​​

As it pertains to the corner bar, said the spokesperson, Flatbush Central is currently in the process of hiring highly experienced bar operators for the front of the market.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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