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Group hopes market, incubator will jumpstart Follansbee’s Main Street

MARKET IN THE WORKS — The Brooke County Economic Development Authority received a boost in its efforts to establish an open air market in Follansbee from participants in the West Virginia University Extension Service’s Energy Express program, who built planters at its future site on Main Street. The Energy Express workers included from left: Brittnie Marmon, Stephanie Fiber and Anamaria Casinelli. (Photo by Warren Scott)

FOLLANSBEE — The Brooke County Economic Development Authority is working to bring more businesses to Follansbee’s Main Street, both through an open air market and a proposed business incubator.

Joan Simonetti, community engagement coordinator for the volunteer board, is seeking food and craft vendors for the market, which is slated to open this month at an open lot in the 800 block of Main Street.

She said the vendors must be from within a 50-mile radius of the city selling locally produced merchandise that can include fruits and vegetables, crafts, art, baked goods, jams, jellies, relishes and other food.

“We want a nice array of vendors, especially things that are unique,” Simonetti said.

She added locally operated food trucks also would be welcome.

Simonetti said days and hours for the market haven’t been set and may be based on the availability of the vendors involved.

She said they could range from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to allow the food trucks to provide lunch and dinner.

“We hope it will become a go-to place in the community,” Simonetti said.

She said the market won’t be open on Wednesdays because they don’t want to compete with the Brooke County Farmers Market, which is operated from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. outside the Dollar General Market on that day.

Applications for vendors can be obtained by calling Simonetti or Norm Schwertfeger, economic development specialist for the WVU Extension Service at (304) 737-3666 or e-mailing bceda-2003@outlook.com.

Simonetti said the effort has received great support from Follansbee Council, which has agreed to provide portable restrooms; and the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce, which is helping to publicize it.

She added the group also is in talks with owners of the former Citizens Bank building next door in hope of establishing a business incubator there.

Business incubators provide aspiring entrepreneurs with a free or low-cost space in which to operate their businesses until they can afford to branch out on their own.

Simonetti said the group hasn’t ruled out the possibility of smaller businesses remaining in the building on a more permanent basis.

She noted the building, which was last home to Stuff With Attitude, has three floors in which to work, and the group aims to fill one at a time.

“We’re just trying to take baby steps and do it methodically so we can grow in a realistic manner,” Simonetti said.

Debbie Puskarich, president of the Follansbee Chamber of Commerce, said she can envision a variety of businesses operating in the former bank.

“When Joan approached me about it, I thought it was a great idea,” she said.

Puskarich said while the chamber is a small group with limited funds, it includes many volunteers who are available to offer assistance and share their knowledge.

Simonetti said even before any agreement is reached on use of it, she and others with the economic development authority can refer those with ideas for businesses to state agencies and others from whom they may seek financial assistance or expertise.

She noted those interested may contact the EDA through the phone number and e-mail above.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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