Meet the woman who runs Dayton’s 2nd Street Market, ‘the warm and inviting kitchen for Dayton’

Lynda Suda manages one of the city’s favorite places to spend time — Five Rivers MetroPark’s 2nd Street Market.

The pandemic has altered normal operations, but the venue is holding outdoor-only markets each Saturday with plans to continue through October.

“The market is an inclusive place where people can be themselves, relax and get to know the people who grow, raise and prepare their food,” Suda said.

If you haven’t visited the market, our Daytonian of the Week will tell you why this downtown Dayton gem is special.

Tell us about your background. What has led you to this point in your career?

I was born and raised in Spokane, Wash. After spending a few years in both Philadelphia, PA and Denver, CO, my husband Marc and I moved our family to Dayton 16 years ago this month. We enjoyed raising our two sons, Tyme and Zhen, and helping Marc’s ailing mother in the same neighborhood Marc grew up in, Five Oaks.

My work background has mostly been connected to small, family owned retail businesses. Prior to moving to Dayton, most of that experience was artisan jewelry related, but when I moved to Dayton, I was able to combine my retail experience with my interest in health and wellness. The first opportunity to do so, came when I started working at and eventually managing a local health food store. After being there ten years, as the owner put it, “it was time for a change”. I went back to school, finishing my liberal studies degree at Antioch Midwest University with a focus on integrated health and wellness.

While at Antioch, the opportunity to work for Five Rivers MetroParks (something I’d wanted to do since moving to Dayton) presented itself with the 2nd Street Market coordinator position. Gratefully, I was hired and enjoyed working and learning the ropes with my predecessor, Jimmy Harless, for two years. When Jimmy announced his retirement, I applied and took over as market manager in December of 2018.

For those who may not be familiar, what is the 2nd Street Market?

The 2nd Street Market is a year-round public market located in a historical freight depot in downtown Dayton. It is home to a variety of farmers, specialty food, prepared food and artisan vendors providing a unique shopping experience. Normally it is a vibrant community gathering space that features local musicians and other family-friendly programming. You can purchase everything you need to prepare healthy, delicious meals, as well as unique handcrafted gifts and delicious prepared foods.

This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the building has remained shut down since March. During this year’s growing season, we’ve been having an outdoor-only market on Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., which includes many of our farmer and specialty food vendors. Vendors and patrons are required to wear facial coverings and observe social-distancing requirements. We hope to continue the outdoor market through the end of October (weather dependent) and are busy working on a plan for the winter months.

What is a typical day like for you in your role at the market?

My first response to this question was to giggle because there’s never a typical day at the market. Every day is an adventure with its own challenges, rewards and plenty of opportunities for smiles. The job of market manager requires flexibility, patience, understanding and a broad skill set. On any given day, I could go from being an administrator, to plunging a toilet, to an educator in a matter of minutes and those are just a few of the many hats I wear.

This year, the pandemic has changed the logistics (mostly working from home), but there are still challenges, rewards and opportunities only now the smiles are hidden behind masks. I am incredibly grateful to FRMP for allowing myself and my staff to keep our normal hours and for providing the Market Coordinators the equipment necessary to work remotely.

Who is on the team that helps make the market such a wonderful place to visit?

In addition to all the passionate people who work for FRMP that help make the market a reality, I have an amazing team that work directly at the market. I’m especially grateful this year for all their hard work and flexibility. My part-time coordinators, Becky Hoen and Sally Leatherman, and the market’s tech staff, Sherman Howard and Gale Bush, have gone above and beyond in helping the market pivot to an outdoor market. I would also like to acknowledge my supervisor, Sam Davis. Without his calm guidance, this year would have been even more challenging. I know I speak for the whole market team in saying how appreciative we are to the Dayton community for continuing to support our local vendors throughout this difficult year.

Why do you think the market has become such a popular community gathering place?

I’ve heard it said that downtown’s RiverScape MetroPark is the community’s front porch. In keeping with the home analogy, I feel the market is the warm and inviting kitchen for Dayton. The place where everyone can gather to bond around food. The market is an inclusive place where people can be themselves, relax and get to know the people who grow, raise and prepare their food. I’m especially proud that we’ve been able to partner with the Homefull agency with our SNAP Exchange program at the market, making our reach even more inclusive and open to the full Dayton community.

What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through the challenge?

As with the rest of the world, adjusting to COVID-19 has been extremely challenging. In early 2020, I was relieved to have made it through my first full year of managing the market. My staff and I were feeling positive that we’d overcome boil advisories, tornadoes and a mass shooting and were ready for a more balanced year. We knew an election year could likely present some challenges to our sense of community but having to shut down the Market in March raised that concern to unprecedented and heartbreaking levels. Again, having an amazing staff along with the encouragement of FRMP leadership and a supportive community, allows me to remain hopeful for the future.

We’ve all had a chance to reflect during the pandemic. What have you found to be positive during this time?

I think there will be many positive changes that arise out of the darkness of the pandemic. It is my hope that the fissures the virus has exposed in our society will finally get the attention they deserve in order to heal and strengthen our world. I’m especially interested to see how our food distribution system will improve. We, and along with our elected officials, need to focus on supporting small local farmers, markets, processors and grocers who are all extremely essential, yet face daily challenges in providing our communities the healthy food required for us to thrive.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Since the pandemic started, I’ve been enjoying reading the Outlander novels and watching way more steaming TV series than I care to count. Outlander, Stranger Things, the recent Star Treks, Game of Thrones and Community (for a good laugh) being some of my favorites. I’m a sci-fi and fantasy geek at heart!

What inspires you about the Dayton area?

I feel inspired by the many young community change leaders that have made Dayton their home in recent years. Also, the diversity and strength of the people who have come together to make community led projects a reality, like the Gem City Market. They give me pride in my adoptive home and hope that if we continue to work together with open dialogue and remain resilient, we can bridge the divides that threaten us and thrive.

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