Business

Cheryl Cronin is new Boston Public Market CEO

Cheryl Cronin, a self-described foodie, said she has been a fan of the market since it opened at the end of July.
Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Cheryl Cronin, a self-described foodie, said she has been a fan of the market since it opened at the end of July.

Cheryl Cronin, a prominent Boston lawyer, might be best-known in political circles as an adviser to former Senator John Kerry, the late Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and the presidential campaigns of President Obama.

Now, she hopes to build her reputation among an equally demanding group of specialists, practitioners, and fanatics: foodies.

Cronin, 60, is the new chief executive of the Boston Public Market, the indoor food bazaar that opened five months ago to bring to downtown the best produce, meats, baked goods, and other products grown or made in New England. The year-round market above the Haymarket MBTA station houses 38 local vendors, attracting more than 500,000 visitors in its first three months. It is expected to have topped $5 million in sales in 2015.

Advertisement

Cronin, whose appointment was announced Tuesday, said she has been a fan of the market since it opened at the end of July, and has frequently walked there from her home in the Back Bay to enjoy fresh, local fare.

Get Talking Points in your inbox:
An afternoon recap of the day’s most important business news, delivered weekdays.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“It’s incredibly inspiring to see these energetic entrepreneurs,” Cronin said. “They’re talented and creative but also really smart about getting a business started. The idea that I could play a role in that is incredibly exciting.”

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff
Cheryl Cronin said she is interested in expanding education and other programs at the market as well as increasing the number of vendors, or possibly rotating them.

Cronin, a Democratic fund-raiser as well as self-described foodie, succeeds Liz Morningstar, who will leave at the end of January. Morningstar, who launched the market, had planned to leave not long after the market was up and running.

Morningstar, who was an adviser to former governor Deval Patrick, said it was the “right time for new leadership” and added Cronin is the right person to take over. She said she was ready for new challenges but had no immediate plans.

“I’m the founder of something and the worst mistake I could make is staying too long,” she said. “It’s bittersweet, but this is always what I was working toward.”

Advertisement

The nonprofit market has raised $10 million in private donations and another $6.5 million in state funds to finance building renovations, other startup costs, and operations. The space is mostly leased: There is room for about four to seven more vendors.

Over the long term, the market will be supported by vendor rents, fees for programs and events, and fund-raising, market officials say.

The operating budget for 2016 is projected at between $1 million and $1.5 million.

Brian Kinney, chairman of the market’s 18-member board, said Cronin was selected unanimously in a Dec. 18 vote. Kinney, who declined to disclose the position’s salary, said Cronin will have to balance the needs of a large constituency, including vendors, the city, the state (the market is in a space leased from the Department of Transportation), and food lovers.

“She has a very high degree of Boston savvy, she knows how things work at the intersection of politics, money, and media, and for this job, that’s essential,” Kinney said. “She was our No. 1 choice.”

Advertisement

Cronin, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Boston College Law School, is a member of the Boston Public Library’s board of trustees and has served on the boards of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority and the Greenway Conservancy.

Alan D. Solomont, dean of the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University and former US ambassador to Spain under Obama, said he has known Cronin for more than 20 years, working with her at the Democratic National Committee. He described her as an effective, behind-the-scenes player who prefers getting things done to basking in the limelight.

“She seeks very little attention,” Solomont said. “She’s certainly an excellent negotiator and a very good fund-raiser and a very charismatic woman. People will love working with her.”

Cronin said she is interested in expanding education and other programs at the market as well as increasing the number of vendors, or possibly rotating them. A mother of three sons, she said one works at a retail food business in Washington that primarily serves locally grown food.

She added that she’s probably eaten at every vendor in the Boston Public Market, declining to name a favorite food. “I’m smart enough to stay away from that question,” she said.

She said the experience she gained as general counsel to the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston helped prepare her for the job. That event, involving politicians, corporate and individual sponsors, political organizations, and a crush of media, could be complicated, she said. And she anticipated that running a market will be, too, albeit on a smaller scale.

“I’m sort of good at cutting through the noise and figuring out what’s going on,” Cronin said. “I also tend to be honest and direct. In the long run, people appreciate that. It makes for a more useful conversation.”

Katie Johnston of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Megan Woolhouse can be reached at megan.woolhouse@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @megwoolhouse.