New location, no problem: Good crowds, steady sales at new Farmers Market layout

       Starting its 26th year, the Farmers Market set up inside Bancroft Park for the first time June 8.

Unfazed by the new layout inside Bancroft Park, a steady stream of customers found their way to the season's first Farmers Market June 8.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Initial reports were favorable... especially the perception of added space.
       “All in all, it went pretty well,” summed up Frank Schmidt, president of the Pikes Peak Farmers Market, a nonprofit organization that runs the market as well as others in the area. “I heard from maybe two vendors that wanted it the old way, but most everyone liked it. They said it wasn't as crowded.”
       It also appeared that the market's popularity - Schmidt says it has the best sales of any of his markets - has not dwindled. People strolled in from all sides, browsing past tables that were set up next to 24th Street, along the diagonal walkways in the east part of the park and on the concrete area in front of the bandshell.
       “I sold out almost all my product,” said Schmidt, who owns a honey farm.
       A similar kind of take came from Bleys Kueck, a cheese distributor. In his second year with the market, he commented that “my coolers are way emptier than my first day last year.”
       Elbow room was also a factor for him. Kueck's customers told him they liked there being “more room for people to walk around,” he said.
       Previously, the market, which sets up every Saturday morning from June to the end of October, had been on 24th Street, closing it off between Colorado and Pikes Peak avenues. The vendors were on either side of a single aisle a few feet wide down the middle of the street.
       But this winter city officials told Schmidt that for years they had failed to enforce certain regulations on the market related to street closures. Putting them in effect would have made staying on the street unaffordable, so Schmidt decided to cut his losses - though still paying more than before - by renting the park.
       Another financial advantage to having more room means the market can lease space to more vendors. “We were close to 35 today,” Schmidt said. “Twenty-eight was as good as we could do before. I will add at least three.”

Standing on a Bancroft Park sidewalk next to 24th Street instead of in the street itself, Gary Hanagan (left), owner of Hanagan Farms, mans a sales table June 8 during the first day of this year's summer-Saturdays Farmers Market. In the background can be seen other market booths - all situated in the park now.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Before, having the market in the street had been especially useful to several farmers who drive big trucks of produce to the market. They would park them on the west side of 24th Street and then place sales stands on the pavement in front of them. Last Saturday, the big farmers parked in the same place, but set up their stands on or near the adjacent sidewalk.
       One of those was Gary Hanagan, owner of Hanagan Farms from Swink, Colo. “Change is always hard. But there is more room now, and it was pretty congested,” he said.
       As for his earnings, “they were pretty good for the first day,” he replied. However, he added, that his vegetables were still not ready to pick and basically all he was selling June 8 was preserved goods. “It's too early to tell, but I think it's going to work out,” he said.
       One vendor, tamale merchant Daniel Gonzales, was the only one to remain in the same spot as before - at the northwest corner of Colorado Avenue and 24th. He felt undeterred by the relocation of everyone else. “It didn't bother me one way or the other,” he said.
       It's uncertain what effect the new Farmers Market configuration will have over time on the 20 crafters that set up outside the Old Colorado City History Center. When the market was on 24th street, they were right next to it, but now the street is open and acts as a separator between them.
       Those crafters rent space from the volunteer Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS). This helps the volunteer organization, which owns the center, raise funds to cover its costs.
       According to Sharon Swint, OCCHS president, the new market layout “affected us a little. People tended to walk by us going to and from their cars.” But she suggested that a reporter check back after at least two more Farmers Markets to see how it's really going.

Westside Pioneer article