Findlay Market names longtime exec Lanser new CEO

Following the sudden departure of its business leader, Findlay Market quickly turned to one of its own to lead the organization.

On Thursday, the board for the Over-the-Rhine based market announced the selection of Kelly Lanser as president and CEO.

The West Side resident brings a decade of experience to the post, having served in several jobs for the Corporation for Findlay Market – the nonprofit that operates the market – over the years. Her most recent position is director of communications and strategic initiative.

Kelly Lanser

Given Lanser’s experience, the board first appointed her to interim CEO for six months in 2022-2023 after Joe Hansbauer left to take over the reins at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati. Lanser assumed the interim title again earlier this month after Cordelia Heaney stepped down after less than a year on the job.

Heaney, who’s not from the region, told the board she was leaving to spend more time with her family.

“The board has seen Kelly demonstrate leadership in so many ways, including when she stepped in as interim CEO, navigating the complex and dynamic environment that is Findlay Market,” said Lia Hager, chair of CFFM’s board.

A decade of trusted leadership

In announcing the appointment, Hager cited Lanser’s professional growth during her nearly 11 years with CFFM. Hager described her as helping to put Findlay Market back “on the map,” including leading the charge to win a “world’s best” public market designation by Newsweek in 2019.

Ohio’s oldest surviving public market, Findlay Market receives 1.2 million visitors every year. The facility is home to approximately 60 small businesses year-round, and more than 100 small businesses when the seasonal outdoor market and farmers market are active.

Beyond serving as a place for groceries and produce, the OTR venue operates Findlay Kitchen, the Findlay Launch Storefront Accelerator program and a variety of other initiatives to promote the growth of the market district.

Photo by Casey Weldon

Hager described Lanser as “strategic and disciplined,” and a champion for the entrepreneurs who make the market so vital.

Lanser was pivotal to the creation of CFFM’s strategic plan and spearheaded the “Queen City Certified” process, aimed at ensuring that its employee benefits and policies promote opportunity and equity, Hager said.

Of particular note was Lanser’s work during COVID-19 pandemic, Hager said, by helping to keep the market open and serving the community. Lanser also developed a grocery relief program to make sure market neighbors had access to fresh food.

“Kelly deeply understands that Findlay Market is a unique asset in Cincinnati’s landscape that is a primary source of fresh food for shoppers seeking value and quality,” Hager added.

An advocate for her hometown’s crown jewel

Lanser is a lifelong Cincinnatian. She earned a bachelor of arts in communications and public relations and a master’s in communications from the University of Cincinnati.

She began her professional career at UGIVE, a nonprofit that works to attract and support youth and student volunteers. After more than four years, she left to take her first communications position with Findlay Market.

Job responsibilities over the years included event operations, promotion, strategic communication, human resources and media relations. She’s been in her current role for the past three years.

Findlay Market Opening Day Parade. (Casey Weldon)

Today, Lanser represents the market on boards for community organizations such as the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce and Cincinnati Police Department’s PIVOT Stakeholder Committee. Working closely with the Cincinnati Reds, Lanser has upheld – and in some ways, expanded – the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade tradition, helping to grow it into an informal city-wide holiday.

“Findlay Market has become a part of me,” Lanser said of her workplace “family.” 

“There is no better place in our city,” she continued, saying the “market walks the walk when it comes to diversity, authenticity and hard work.”

In her new role, Lanser promised to continue to support legacy merchants while simultaneously creating opportunities for minority, women and immigrant-owned businesses through its Findlay Kitchen, Findlay Launch and Findlay Learn initiatives.

She also stressed how critical it is for the market to hold on to longtime market shoppers while attracting the next generation of shoppers, “all the while remaining a true public market that values freshness.”

“I am honored to have made positive contributions to Findlay Market over the last decade, and I look forward to serving the market and our community in this next chapter,” Lanser said.

Findlay Market

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