HOUSTON – Houston’s oldest farmer’s market will soon undergo a major transformation. The 14 acres on Airline Drive just inside the loop were recently bought up by a major developer. Consumer expert Amy Davis stopped by to see what’s in store for the property.

Think Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, a tourist destination and a market for fresh cheese and produce. The new owners, MLB Capital Partners, have big ideas.

“It’s time,” said Bill Canino, owner of Canino’s Produce at the front of the farmer’s market. “It’s been left alone to progress on its own for too many years.”

Canino’s dad opened up Canino’s Produce in 1958, selling fruit and vegetables from some 75 farmers in Harris and surrounding counties. Now, there are only about 30 local farmers left.

“Most of the people have gotten older and passed away,” Canino explained.

Canino’s section of the farmer’s market takes up the front, a space he leases. His store looks just as it did in the ’70s. About the only visual difference you see when comparing old photos of Canino’s to the store today are the prices. Tomatoes were 29 cents a pound in an old picture Canino guesses is from the ’70s. Today, they’re $1.29 a pound. But Canino says sales are down about 40 percent just 20 years ago.

“Most people work,” he explains. “The man and the wife works now. So they go to all these restaurants and fast food places… and they don’t stay home and cook.”

Canino says he’ll continue to rent his space from the new owners and not much will change with his business. He says the outside market in the back, where vendors operate more flea market than farmers market, will be reinvented to make way for restaurants, a seafood market, a cheese shop and a space for cooking shows. No one at MLB Capital Partners would talk with KPRC for this story; but they said we can expect the first big announcement about plans for the market sometime in July. We will keep you posted.

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