DECEMBER 2015 - Recently, the Maryland Business Enterprise for the Blind (BEP) opened its first-ever staffed 24/7 micro market, 5600 Market Place, at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Parklawn Building on Fishers Lane in Rockville. An agency of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the HRSA houses more than 4,000 people, with employees and contractors on site twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
5600 Market Place opened during the holidays when many people were on leave, so there were only about 300 to 500 people on site, but BEP statewide manager Quentin Scott says there are usually at least 1,000 people on site. "When we start to get a full house we expect to really be bustling as people come back and as word gets around."
The market is managed by BEP vendor Carolyn Abbott and two part-time staffers. BEP has two smaller micro markets at Social Security and NASA, but this will be the first staffed facility with someone on duty Monday thru Friday from 7:00 AM until 3:00 PM. It is the size of the HRSA facility that makes this staffing necessary. Quentin Scott: "When you start to get more than 1,000 people on site, you need staff because you'll be filling stock every day!"
BEP operates under the Randolph-Sheppard Act
and provides opportunities for individuals who are legally blind to operate retail concession, gift, or food service businesses in public facilities.