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Will East End Market become Orlando’s new food hub?

The community market on Corrine Drive faces competition from all sides, but says “a rising tide lifts all boats”

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Heather Grove, John Rife and Gabby Lothrop

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“We are firm believers that a rising tide lifts all boats,” writes Kamrin. “The more people that come in contact with the Good Food movement, be it from the corporate grocery side or the local food entrepreneur side, the better.”

Emily Rankin is even more progressive toward capitalism in general. “East End is a beautiful example that collaboration makes you stronger than competition,” says Rankin, who is also the co-founder of the local business group Ourlando. “I bet Blue Bird [Bake Shop, just down the road from East End] is going to do better because East End is going in, because more people are going to be coming here to shop.”

Rankin also isn’t worried that Audubon Park isn’t exactly on everybody’s map. “People drive all over town for crap,” she says. “They’ll drive somewhere for something good.”

Corrente agrees that there are benefits to being more of the local little guy than a big chain. “Community is excited about new venture, and I feel like they’re more excited by ventures that start small and grow to something big,” says the cheese lady. “Everybody feels like they’ve got their hands in the pot. … There’s a sense of ownership.”

Construction delays, while expected in any development, have pushed the opening back from last winter to this fall, with rumors and near-starts all along the way. While this might have put some in the public on edge, the vendors are still raring to go. “To be opening in the summer would have been the slow season,” says Talty. “In October, things should be humming.” Currently, East End Market has an opening date set for Oct. 25, with some soft opening events planned.

Rife has his own source of confidence in the project. Right now, all of the capital outlay has come from a construction loan from Rife’s father. “I would not have been able to convince a guy who’s been involved with real estate for 35 years in Orlando to loan me money if this didn’t have legs, if there wasn’t a degree of realism to what we’re doing,” he says. “I wouldn’t have entered this all willy-nilly, like, ‘I think there’s a market.’ I know there’s a market.”

And Rife definitely has the most to lose here. He is the only person currently on the hook for this loan. “If we succeed, it’s because of the team,” he says. “If the Titanic goes down, I’ll be the captain that rides the boat to the bottom.”

“It’s all about voting with your dollars,” says Rankin. “We can teach people that when they spend, they’re voting … and get them to be conscious of where they’re putting their money.”

The promise

Walking around during the guided tour, we media representatives have to exert our imaginations to envision what’s coming. Jamie McFadden of Cuisiniers Catering, Jennifer Crotty of 99 Market, Txokos chef Henry Salgado, Rife, Lothrop and more point out where their spaces will be fleshed out. Wall coverings, floor materials and fixture finishes that have yet to be installed, but that look elegant next to each other, are displayed.

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