Louisville market owners reflect on growth and change at Logan Street Market
Logan Street Market has become a popular spot in the Louisville Shelby Park neighborhood. In the four years since it opened, owners Mike and Medora Safai have had to adapt their business to match the changing needs and goals of the market, its vendors and consumers.
The Safais are not new to owning and operating a small business. They are proprietors of Safai Coffee, which has locations across the city.
Having had success with their coffee stores, they decided to open a market where others could cultivate their own small businesses. But there was no way they could predict what would happen next.
“When we opened the market, we thought we were going to be a support for small businesses,” Medora Safai said. “We didn't realize that we were a small business as well.”
“It was a lot to take on in the first six months, in some ways, we were still trying to discover who we were going to be in the community, how this whole thing was going to work,” Safai said.
Some vendors chose to step away from the market during that time, but Safai said those that stayed, built close connections as they supported each other through an uncertain time.
Cold Smoke Bagels and its owner Alexander Chack have been at Logan Street Market since it opened.
He said the market size and food hall style helped make it a go-to spot during the pandemic when other places were unable to meet capacity and space requirements.
“It wasn't like a kind of a small sit-down restaurant where people were kind of afraid to come,” Chack said. “People would still come, everybody wore masks. There was a lot of space. There were a lot of areas for people to be in. So we got through it.”
Chack is one of the original vendors that remains at Logan Street. Others have left finding that entrepreneurship isn’t for them, or have “graduated” away from the market, as Safai puts it.
Safai said Logan Street has also helped her grow and learn as a business owner.
When the market first opened it featured a market-operated store called The Bodega, which sold toiletries, staple foods and fresh produce.
Safai said the market was always supposed to have a space for customers and the Shelby Park community, but The Bodega in its original iteration wasn’t sustainable and it closed.
“It was just something that we had to decide,” Safai said.
She said the cost of bringing fresh produce into the space wasn’t supported by The Bodega’s revenue.
However, she said the quick-stop shop should be returning to Logan Street in 2024. The Safais created a separate non-profit called “LSM Foundation” to raise funds for market projects, like the reopening of the Bodega, Safai said.
She said the grants and additional funds the market will contribute to the growth and development of Logan Street Market.
Up until this point, Safai and her husband have tried to keep Logan Street going with as little help, other than vendors, as possible.
“We didn't want to have investors. We didn't want to have people coming talking to us about return on investment. There is no return on investment here,” Safai said. “The return on investment is that we're being a part of a community that is something that we can be proud of, and that we can be excited for them. We can share in our successes.”