The Making of a Market

January 8th, 2019


The quaint town of Elizabethtown epitomizes the typical small town in North Carolina. As a mainly agricultural community, Elizabethtown was impacted by the overall decline in the production of major cash crops, such as tobacco, along with the recession of that began in 2007. A ray of hoped appeared in the passage of the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act (ARRA) in 2009, and community leaders saw an opportunity to help the town by leveraging alternative funding sources to revitalize its downtown area through the creation of the Cape Fear Farmer’s Market.

The concept of a centralized farmer’s market was created with the objectives of supporting local farmers, boosting downtown business through increased traffic and tourism, and creating a center of local community life and culture. But the steering committee that was established to explore this project was unsure how to proceed. The thought was to rehabilitate the former Red & White grocery store, which had been a fixture in Elizabethtown’s downtown for decades.

Growth of Funding

WK Dickson was first approached in the spring of 2009 to discuss and clarify the funding options available. The question on the town leaders’ minds was “can enough funding be found to make this project a reality?”

In just a few short months, the answer became a resounding “yes.” WK Dickson’s efforts in working with Elizabethtown resulted in an extraordinary amount of funding for a project once seen by the town as only a dream.

WK Dickson’s grant coordinator had a hand in every grant proposal submitted to multiple funding agencies. Among those that provided the bulk of the dollars needed were the NC Tobacco Trust Fund, the Golden LEAF Foundation and the USDA Community Facilities Fund (with ARRA grant/loan funds). Other sources of additional funding included the Rural Advancement Foundation (RAFI) and the NC Rural Center Building Reuse Initiative. All told, WK Dickson helped secure over $1,700,000 for the project. Elizabethtown contributed less than $11,000 in local funds, and only about $400,000 in loan funds were needed.

Turning a Dream into Reality

In addition to helping the town with their funding needs for this project, WK Dickson also provided site/civil design, landscape design, construction administration and coordination with the architect throughout from conceptual design to completion. Our staff advised Elizabethtown on how to incorporate energy saving design solutions that included solar cells, cisterns for capturing stormwater, and energy efficient lighting.

This project, which supported USDA’s ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative, included major modifications to the existing building to accommodate the market, as well as the construction of a covered outdoor market space for truck vendors and a new parking lot layout. Two year-round business, a meat market and a bakery, were recruited to rent space on either end of the building, which provided the funds for the town’s on-going operation and maintenance of the facility along with the small amount of debt service for the project.

The former grocery store, now rehabilitated, is a local historic landmark and its revitalization has allowed Elizabethtown to retain its small-town charm while enhancing economic opportunities, strengthening local food systems, and creating a stronger link between local food production and local consumption.

In just two short years from project inception the ribbon was cut, and the Cape Fear Farmer’s Market officially opened to hundreds of people. The market continues to be a successful venture for the town and has assisted in the continued revitalization of the downtown area.

Have questions about your project’s eligibility for funding? Contact us at for answers.

Back to News