Maxwell Street Merchants Fleeing?

Expert sees moves to Swap-O-Rama

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Steve Balkin
    Frank "Little Sonny" Scott Jr., seen here with Reverend John Johnson, fighting for the blues outside the New Maxwell Street Market.

    It's not just the blues musicians who have disappeared from the New Maxwell Street Market, according to Roosevelt University professor and resident Maxwell Street Market advocate Steve Balkin. It's the merchants themselves. And Balkin doesn't like it.

    "[T]he New Maxwell Street Market has been killed off by City Hall and aldermanic indifference, ineptness, and ignorance," Balkin writes in statement released to preview a Town Hall meeting tonight about the market. "But before being boiled, multitudes of vendors have voted with their feet to go elsewhere, mainly to the Swap-O-Rama Flea Market on 41st and Ashland, where fees are lower and management is more skilled.

    "Empty vendor spaces abound on Des Plaines Street on Sunday, the new site of the New Maxwell Street Market. And the blues musicians have disappeared, too. The explanation is basic textbook economics: higher fees, stifling regulators, and mismanagement. The Mayor's Office of Special Events now runs the Market with Jam Productions as their highly paid co-conspirators. Neither of them know how to run a grassroots community public market and, it seems, neither of them want to learn."

    Balkin has insisted before that the city is missing out on a great marketing opportunity.

    The Maxwell Street Town Hall is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the UIC Forum. City officials say they want community input about the market, but Balkin, who has been trying to save the market for years, thinks it's a ruse.

    "I hope that Chicagoans do not let City Hall continue business as usual and kill off this last remnant of our most historic and integrated neighborhood," he writes.

    Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, which also posted Balkin's statement today.