American Countryside Farmers Market on auction block - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

American Countryside Farmers Market on auction block

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It's an Elkhart County landmark, and it's headed for the auction block. The American Countryside Farmer's Market and 300 acres of surrounding land will be auctioned off Wednesday night.

The owners claim the Farmers Market building is America's largest wood peg structure. It's 51,000 square feet of old fashioned Amish craftsmanship, and it's about to go to the highest bidder.

"We've had people here from China," said Roger Diehm, a sales manager for Schrader Auction Company, which is handling the auction. "We've had people call us from Washington, New York, Georgia."

They'll all be bidding on 15 parcels of land, though bidders will have the option to bid on parcel combinations or even the whole thing. But the big red building is the big prize.

"It's probably going to be used for something unique," said Diehm. "That's the neat part about it. There's so many things you can do with it."

Elkhart County leaders are just hoping the buyers do something with it that will help the local economy.

"Ideally, it would be some kind of a venture that would create good paying jobs for the area, would bring cash into the area as opposed to sending cash out," said Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce president Phil Penn.

Rumors are swirling about who's interested. The president of Bremen's Rader Equipment told Fox 28 they might bid on the building to use as a dealership. Then there's the one about the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians turning the building into a casino. The band already owns New Buffalo's Four Winds Casino, but a spokesperson tells Fox 28 they are "not interested in buying the building for sale at Wednesday's auction."

Whatever happens Wednesday night, it promises to be quite the scene.

"I've heard a lot of ideas that I would have never thought of for the building," said Diehm. "And that's what's exciting about tomorrow night, just to see who shows up and who comes to the table."

The market opened in May 2007 but closed last September after a lackluster three years. The ownership group has more than 20 investors, and in January 2010 they announced plans to build a vacation complex with a water park on the property. But those plans fell through.

The building and the land aren't the only things up for auction. On Thursday, they'll auction off all the personal property inside the building. Restaurant owners might be interested in the tables, chairs, cooking equipment and other things they have inside.

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