Farmers market reaps praise, quibbles

By Ian Neligh
Posted 10/26/10

The Idaho Springs Farmers Market was seen by some in the local business community as a success during its 20-week run that concluded Oct. 8.

But others said the market, which charges vendors $25 …

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Farmers market reaps praise, quibbles


The Idaho Springs Farmers Market was seen by some in the local business community as a success during its 20-week run that concluded Oct. 8.
But others said the market, which charges vendors $25 a week, was heavy on merchandise and light on farmers.
Business owners and operators said the market provided good exposure for local businesses, though some said they didn’t think the market actually increased sales at local businesses. A couple of business owners want to make sure that next year’s market remains primarily a produce and vegetable market rather than a flea market.
The Idaho Springs Chamber of Commerce hosted the farmers market every Friday at the Idahoe Mall from May 28 until the start of October as a way to bring fresh produce to locals and to draw tourists off Interstate 70.
The market had as many as 30 vendors a week at the height of the summer, and Belita Nelson, the chamber’s executive director, estimated that 75 percent of the vendors were food-related.
Nelson said the chamber plans to offer it again next summer. “As far as keeping it going? Oh absolutely.”

Local business reaction
Local business owners were pleased with the exposure the farmers market brought, and they were happy that the market became a destination for people traveling along I-70.
Elaine Hillman, owner of restaurant Cafe Aimee, called the farmers market a free advertisement. Hillman said any type of market in Idaho Springs only helps to bring people up from the metro area.
“I think it adds a lot to a community if they have a flea market, a farmers market or something going on to bring people into town besides just getting away from the heat (in the summer),” Hillman said.
Asta Loevlie, owner of Java Mountain Roasters, said she was glad the chamber organized the farmers market. Loevlie participated for a time in the market itself and said she received some business from the exposure.
“I didn’t participate the entire summer. I didn’t have enough staff, but when I did … I sent (a lot of people) to my shop, and they’d come in,” Loevlie said. “I know that a lot of people who stopped for the farmers market actually shopped downtown as well.”
Loevlie said she thinks something like a farmers market might take time to build momentum but thought it had been a great first year.
Ken Reid, operator of Idaho Springs Treasures, said that while he didn’t see an increase in business from the market, he thought anything that brought people to town is good.
“It gave me exposure; it gave our town exposure — bring people to town, have events, do something. I don’t care what it is — if it brings people (to) town, it gives us all exposure,” Reid said.
Business owners did say that the farmers market should offer more produce and fewer flea market items.
While Ken Douglas, owner of the Vintage Moose Bar, was happy with the way the farmers market drew people to the area, he said he heard comments about the lack of vegetables and fruit.
“The common thread I heard all the time was (people) wished it was more of a farmers market and that there was produce and stuff every week,” Douglas said.
Business owner David Gladstone of Anything and Everything Consignment Store was concerned that the flea-market nature of the weekly event hurt his business. Gladstone said at one point he considered closing his shop on Fridays because of it.
“It was a flea market. It wasn’t a farmers market, and then you had stores coming up setting up like little stores,” Gladstone said. “And then you had the same things stores were carrying up here at a higher price. … It didn’t do us (any) good — a farmers market should be (for) farmers.”
Gladstone said he wasn’t opposed to the idea of a farmers market if that’s what, in fact, it was and not something that would compete with local businesses.

A review from the city
Idaho Springs Clerk Tami DuBois said she thought the market, from her perspective, went really well.
“They had quite a bit of participation and booths, and it seemed like a lot of people … stopped. They always looked busy,” DuBois said.
Nelson said planning the event sometimes was a week-long activity.
“The hard thing was finding out who was going to be there on what Friday and making sure you had space available and that sort of thing,” Nelson said. “It got easier because it got to the point where we had the same vendors almost every weekend unless they had a prior engagement.”
According to Nelson, the majority of market vendors were from out of town.
“We had a lot of locals in the beginning, and as more people came in … the majority of our vendors as we went on were from out of town,” Nelson said. “Because one thing the local people saw (was) that it would drive business, and they didn’t really have to be out there to get the business.”
Nelson said vendors reported that about 80 percent of the farmers market customers saw signs advertising it or saw it from I- 70 while driving by.
Nelson said she was pleased with the turnout from vendors and visitors pulling off I-70, and with the local support she’d received.
At one point in August, a sign near the Twin Tunnels advertising the market was stolen. City staff surprised Nelson a few days later by creating a new wooden sign, on their own time, which is now attached to the city’s sign to the east of town.
“I was, like, extremely moved, touched …,” Nelson said. “I was almost in tears because that was a very, very cool thing for everybody to take their time to do.  My comment was, ‘That is exactly why I want to live in this town.’ “
Nelson said she plans to keep the market in the same place because of its visibility from the interstate, and she would like to work with the city on a contingency parking plan.
“Over the winter, (we’ll) work on some way to have more parking,” Nelson said.

Contact Ian Neligh at courant, and check for updates and breaking news.


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