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Harbor District Market begins public fundraising, anticipates May opening

The Harbor District Market in Washington is one step closer to opening its doors to the public in May. During a reception held at the future market Tuesday, stakeholders spoke about the progress of the indoor market and what it will mean for Beaufort County, kicking off the public fundraising stage of the project.

During the lead gift phase of fundraising, the Washington Harbor District Alliance was able to raise $100,000 from 10 donors interested in seeing the project come to fruition. That strong foundation was boosted even further in December with the announcement of a $129,843 grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund.

“It really has been a team effort to continue with this vision,” WHDA Director Meg Howdy shared with the crowd. “This is a huge space that has been empty for a very long time. … We can bring this historic building into a new light here.”

The story of the Harbor District Market is one of old tradition and new growth.

On the one hand, the building itself once housed McLellan’s Five and Dime Store, a beloved relic of days gone by in downtown Washington. Upon completion, the renovated building will be a place where eastern North Carolina’s agricultural roots and history are preserved and cherished.

Farming from colonial days to the present, exhibits on the Underground Railroad and other pieces of the area’s collective past — the Market promises to be a celebration of the industries that have made Washington what it is today. For the farmers who continue those traditions today, the market will provide new opportunities.

“On behalf of all the farming community, and all the citizens, we do appreciate this,”

Beaufort County farmer Steve Griffin said during the presentation. “This is something we can all use.”

FARMER FRIENDLY: Local farmer Steve Griffin, who helped gather information on the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund grant, speaks about the benefits the Harbor District Market will bring for area growers during a reception Tuesday morning.

While the past is clearly alive in Harbor District Market, so too is the present and the future. Rather than a museum, it will be a living, breathing space, inhabited by people, produce and the fruits of the earth, fresh off the vine and from the soil. From the craftsman seeking a place to work to the teacher sharing knowledge, spaces for craftspeople to work in and an educational conference room will all create opportunities for growth.

For a number of Washington business owners, WHDA’s Saturday Market, which will resume May 11, has served as a place to grow their businesses to a new level. One example has been Rachel Midgette of Rachel K’s Bakery in Washington, who went from selling her baked goods at the market to establishing her own bakery on North Market Street.

“I feel like the market itself and a farmer’s market is a really good asset for the town and a good economic generator and incubator, not just people doing food, but people who are making crafts, growing produce or making pottery,” Midgette said. “It’s a way to figure out what people want and have access to the public.”

The rebirth of the building itself reflects a larger trend of revitalization of the town’s historic structures. It will be a place where people can sell and make new things, possibly with space to create value-added products. It is a place where local growers and artisans can build a business and clientele, possibly opening doors to their own brick and mortar storefront.

With the reception Tuesday, the market has entered its next phase of fundraising, including opportunities to sponsor vendor spaces, painted columns depicting Beaufort County’s agrarian history and educational/kitchen space. Likewise, smaller donations can also go a long way to help what has largely been a volunteer effort.

“Gifts of all amounts are greatly appreciated,” WHDA President Chris Furlough said. “Every dollar of this project is important.”

To learn more about the Harbor District Market and the WHDA or to donate, call 252-947-1487 or email mhowdy@whda.org.