The Nomar International Marketplace opened for business in North Wichita in 2011 as part of the 21st street revitalization project. Vendors offer authentic Mexican, Puerto Rican and other food plus shopping in an open-air market.
Carlos Contreras grew up in North Wichita and has worked on the project for the past seven years. He was initially a Nomar board member and is now employed as the manager.
“It’s predominantly Hispanic and Asian,” says Contreras of the neighborhood. “We try to capitalize on that, we try to show people the rich culture we have in the area.”
Contreras says several events are offered at the Normar plaza and more are being added this year.
“It’s been pretty successful thus far,” says Contreras. “We not only have different styles of food and clothing but we are also reaching out to other communities. Last year, we had a woman from Iran selling jewelry from Iran.”
He says food options at Nomar go beyond Mexican food to Puerto Rican food and Salvadorian food.
"And we want to have more,” he says. “We are working on getting some other food trailers for barbecue and for different types of food.”
Contreras says they are working on reaching out to more diverse communities, and will host a Native American pow wow this summer.
But even with growth at Nomar, there are still a number of empty buildings in the neighborhood.
“Part of objective is to be the catalyst," says Contreras. “To be the beginning, the spark for the change in the area."
Contreras said he anticipates more business owners occupying spaces in the area, new housing development, new activities for youth and small workforce development.
“We really are trying to educate and give business owners the tools they need,” he says.
When a vendor sets up a booth at Nomar, they can also take advantage of monthly classes that focus on business startup, taxes and a business plan.
Contreras recalls a success story of a Nomar vendor who sold clothes on the plaza.
“She now owns her own business a block away,” he says, “and that’s part of the objective.”