Exhibit celebrates immigrant-owned markets

Published: Jun. 26, 2022 at 7:40 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 27, 2022 at 6:14 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Immigrant-owned markets have a long history in Chittenden County. Now, a New England nonprofit is sharing those stories with the community.

Historic New England is celebrating local, immigrant-owned markets with the opening of their exhibit: “More Than a Market.” Located at ONE Community Center at 20 Allen Street in Burlington.

“It’s not just about selling food. The people who own and run these markets are helping their customers and community members in so many other ways,” said Mary Rizos, the project photographer.

The goal is to share the experiences of settling into a new country through the voices of market owners and their customers.

“Markets provide the ingredients but they also are places where you can find community and support and for immigrants cut off from traditional food and from traditional ways of shopping and gathering together. These markets are essential as they navigate a new home,” said Charlotte Barrett, the project writer and manager.

The exhibit focuses on the importance of food, community and family in the markets of Burlington and Winooski.

“Our stores are more than a market. They’re the place where we find friendships and support and we meet new people and we get new ideas and we must have a sense of routine and belonging so that’s really what was interesting,” said Rizos.

With colorful fabrics and stacks of food cartons, the project is designed to create a feeling of being in an actual market, but with the addition of real stories about the people who live, work and shop there.

“When you walk into a market, you’re not necessarily going to be able to pick up all this information... I think one of the things that makes this special is that most of the text is quotes. It’s just made up of quotations of customers and market owners, so it’s their voice and you might not get that with just visiting and buying something there,” said Amity Femia, the project designer.

But even though the project creators hope to inform people about the uniqueness of these different markets and cultures, they say what they really want, is for the exhibit to showcase the things we all have in common.

“It may be human nature to focus on our differences, but food is universal,” said Barrett.

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