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Farmers Market Vendors Pleased As Open Boulevards Program Kicks Off In Logan Square

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Shutting down streets and opening up shop – the city's Open Boulevards program kicked off in Logan Square on Sunday.

As CBS 2's Jackie Kostek reported, the program is drumming up support for local businesses.

What the Open Boulevard concept did was allow the Logan Square Farmers Market to expand and include additional vendors. Kostek spoke to an organizer who said these vendors understand just how solid this customer base is.

She said that they set up and often sell out before noon.

"It was like a whole new market," said Deb Kramer.

Kramer has been selling her handmade soaps at the Logan Square Farmers Market for as long as she's owned her business, Abbey Brown Soap Artisan - 15 years.

"Usually on a Bears game day, the crowd will have died down a little bit right after 12," she said, "but today, I feel like it's been strong all the way to the finish line."

Kramer attributes that crowd size to the Open Boulevard event, a new city-run series that shut down stretches of Logan Boulevard and Kedzie Avenue to bring people together around food, music, shopping, and entertainment.

Nilda Esparca runs the Logan Square Chamber of Commerce. She says the expansion was planned in about two weeks and allowed for 32 more small businesses to join in.

"This Open Boulevards concept gave us the opportunity to invite vendors that have been on our waiting list for many years," Esparca said.

The neighborhood-centric events are taking up where the Sundays on State events downtown left off last week. The city reported an average of 67,000 people attended each Sunday and spent about $160 each at Loop businesses.

The city puts the overall economic impact at $12 million for eight events.

Esperca estimates about 6,000 people strolled the shut-down streets on Sunday, up from an average of 4,500 on a typical Sunday. That strength in crowd size translates to strength in profit too - at least for Kramer.

"We're probably about 25 or 30 percent over what we normally would do," she said.

The next stops for this Open Boulevards series will happen on the South and West sides. Those will happen in the coming weeks.

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