After learning about the Bo Diddley Community Plaza redevelopment efforts coming early 2015, local Gainesville market vendors are raising concern about the possibility of being relocated to a different area.
Among the more than 60 vendors who congregate at the plaza for the Union Street Farmers Market every Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. in downtown Gainesville, two business owners see how the move will negatively affect their livelihood.
Pat McCarthy, owner of Nana Pat’s Goodies, said that if the market is disrupted she is sure she will lose sales.
“It’s one of the two markets I do every week,” McCarthy said. “It’s actually my best market – it’s my biggest income.”
Marianne Melendez, co-owner of The Dragon’s Hoard LLC, said that each week at the market is either a half or a third of what she makes that week.
Melendez said she would try to look for another Wednesday market if the downtown one were to shut down, but there aren’t very many.
“It would hurt my business a lot if they shut down this market,” Melendez said. “There are plenty of farmers markets but this has got to be the best, and it’s because of location, location, location. It’s not hard to find.”
Trisha Ingle, a Gainesville resident and regular patron of the farmers market, said she is very dependent on the market, as she buys her sausage, vegetables, soap, mustard, gluten-free products and plants there.
“Some of it is stuff that I won’t be able to get elsewhere,” Ingle said. “I’ll either have to do without or make special arrangements with the vendors.”
Besides being a threshold for the patrons and the market, the plaza also hosts many annual festivals, like the Labor Daze Fest and the Gainesville Pride Festival.
“I’m not only at the farmers market but I’m down there for other festivals as a vendor, too,” McCarthy said. “I’ve been at every single Labor Daze since it’s been there. Each one of those festivals will bring me in two weeks’ worth of income from farmers markets in one day.”
McCarthy said she has also been involved in convention and festival organizing in the past and knows how a year’s absence can lead a festival into its demise.
“Missing one year because your site is not available can kill a festival because you don’t have your income, you lose your vendors and the people who are involved,” McCarthy said.
According to Charlie Lybrand, the director of the Union Street Farmers Market, he has been trying to coordinate a location that will accommodate not just the market, but other events that take place on the plaza, in addition to keeping it within a couple of blocks of where it has been.
“That’s the main goal: to try to keep it in the real downtown area,” Lybrand said.
However, McCarthy is also concerned about whether or not the customers will follow the vendors to a new site.
“I’m concerned that there’s not really another space like the plaza, where festivals and these sorts of things, that bring people together can move to,” McCarthy said. “There’s a lot of community involvement in that space, and I’m just not seeing a plan from the city to harbor that and continue those efforts.”
McCarthy said she also doesn’t see the need for a remodel because she thinks that the plaza is in fine condition.
“Maintenance is one thing but tearing things apart and building new things seems to be a use of the money that doesn’t seem to be really needed when the city has so many other real needs, like road repairs,” McCarthy said.
Ingle said she also doesn’t see the need for the plaza renovations.
“I think it’s a bad idea and a waste of money, “ Ingle said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”