The Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board (CIB), which oversees the Grand Wayne Convention Center and disburses funding from the Allen County Supplemental Food & Beverage Tax, appointed six inaugural members of the Electric Works Public Market Trust. The Public Market Trust is an independent nonprofit organization that will monitor the performance of Union Street Market at Electric Works and create food access and educational programs that benefit the community.

“When local government decided to invest public dollars into the rebirth of the former GE plant, we stipulated that the developers would create a mission-driven public market that enhances community wellness and provides underserved residents with access to healthy foods,” said Mayor Tom Henry. “The Electric Works Public Market Trust, working alongside the operators of Union Street Market, will ensure that this happens.”

The Economic Development Agreement between the city, county and developer states that the CIB appoints six of the Trust’s 13 board members. “We are thrilled to announce the six people chosen to help lead this new organization,” said Jim Cook, CIB President. “These volunteers are community leaders on the front lines of nutrition education, getting healthy foods to seniors and kids, local farming and creating dynamic and inclusive public spaces.”

The six board members are:

  • Michelle Bojrab-Wray is lead community outreach dietitian at Parkview Health, where she oversees nutrition and wellness initiatives with a focus on health equity. Bojrab-Wray is past president of the Indiana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  • Riley Johnson is founding director of AMP Lab High School at Electric Works, a new FWCS STEAM high school that will open at Electric Works in August. An award-winning teacher and principal, Johnson has served as an administrator in FWCS since 2019.
  • Janet Katz is founding director of the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network, which she launched in 2017 to promote and connect local farms, food producers, restaurants, markets and wholesale buyers to grow the region’s food system.
  • Aaron Parkinson is program chair of hospitality administration at Ivy Tech Community College, where he oversees the six-faculty hospitality program. Parkinson is a certified executive chef and has taught culinary arts at Ivy Tech for 11 years.
  • Chuck Reddinger is deputy director of Fort Wayne’s Department of Parks & Recreation. Among his many responsibilities, Reddinger oversees Salomon Park, community centers and Promenade Park, which each have programming related to food and farming, with an emphasis on serving youth and seniors.
  • Mary Tyndall is food insecurity & nutrition program officer at St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, where she manages grants to organizations addressing food insecurity and nutrition throughout Allen County and oversees the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) program, which provides nutrition and cooking classes for underserved residents.

Electric Works Public Market Trust will monitor and report on the accomplishments of Union Street Market, run cooking and nutrition classes in the Market’s teaching kitchen, promote and expand the use of SNAP, Double Up Indiana, and Produce Prescription programs for low-income residents, and engage the community in the life of the Market. The new board will begin meeting this spring, in preparation for Union Street Market’s opening in the fall. As a tax-exempt nonprofit, the Public Market Trust will be eligible for grants and donations to support its programs.

The Market has secured commitments from 15 local independent food businesses to be daily merchants, and more will be announced soon. “The merchants at Union Street Market, along with the outdoor farmers’ market, will provide a consistent and accessible place for Fort Wayne residents to access high quality, local fresh foods year-round,” said Jeff Kingsbury of Ancora, the lead developer of Electric Works. “The Public Market Trust will be a key partner in ensuring that the Market offers cooking classes, wellness activities and creative programming that serve Fort Wayne’s diverse community.”

Union Street Market announced three new merchants and revealed the large number of women-owned and minority businesses at the year-round, indoor food market at Electric Works. This announcement brings the total number of Union Street Market merchants to 15.

“In creating Union Street Market, we set out to reflect the growing diversity of Fort Wayne and provide opportunities for independent business owners,” said Ted Spitzer, Union Street Market’s director of planning and development. “With today’s announcement, we are proud to share that 60% of Market businesses are women-owned, a quarter are minority-owned, and every single one is a local, independent entrepreneur.”

The three businesses announced today include:

  • Pikoso Burrito Company is a new concept from veteran food entrepreneurs Flora and Samuel Barron, owners of Flora and Lily’s Mexican Kitchen food truck and Kanela Blended Drinks on the Landing. “Over the years, we’ve learned that Fort Wayne residents love both authenticity and creativity, so Pikoso Burrito will feature Mexican ingredients with different twists to make delicious combinations,” said Flora Barron. Creative burrito flavors will include Asian and California-style, Surf and Turf, TexMex, and Mediterranean. Pikoso will also offer Mexican sodas with optional toppers.
  • Johnny OX NEO Neapolitan Pizzeria will debut at the Market under the ownership of veteran chef Johnny Bojinoff. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Bojinoff attended the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary school and worked in West Coast restaurants that innovated with old-world and modern pizza techniques. Upon returning to Fort Wayne, he became executive chef at Old Crown restaurant and was a leading force in establishing the city’s farm-to-fork movement with seasonal, weekly changing menus. “I’m excited to be part of Union Street Market because I will have access to great local ingredients to make incredible pizza toppings, as well as delicious appetizers, salads, vinaigrettes and dressings,” Bojinoff said. “At NEO, customers can buy whole pies or pizza by the slice, including all-vegan pizzas.”
  • Honey Plant is opening a second Fort Wayne location at Union Street Market and will offer a wide range of houseplants and cut local flowers when in season. “We started as a pop-up in 2018, moved into our Wells Street store at the end of 2019, and expanded to double the size of our space,” said owner Cassandra Braman. “At the Market, we will feature cactus and succulent arrangements, popular houseplants, and have a seasonal floral bar with flowers from local and other US-based growers.”

Union Street Market is on schedule to open in October 2022. Additional merchant announcements are expected soon but there are still a few spaces available. Food entrepreneurs are encouraged to visit to learn about leasing opportunities.