Many Gainesville Market Vendors Disappointed With Relocation

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Shoppers stroll through two open aisles with tents and stands stacked with jams, produce, jewelry, soap and baked goods alongside them.

For some vendors at the Union Street Farmers Market, not everything has stacked up quite so neatly.

Since the market’s move in March to city-owned parking lot #10, two blocks west from its former location at Bo Diddley Community Plaza, several vendors noticed a decline in business.

Charlie Lybrand, owner of Land of Flowers Farms and director of the market, said his business incurred a nearly 50 percent loss since the move.

“Any time any business moves, you tend to have a certain amount of drop off just because it takes time for the business to re-establish itself,” Lybrand said.

Pat McCarthy, owner of Nana Pat’s Goodies, said it has not been a good move for her either.

Pat McCarthy, owner of Nana Pat’s Goodies, talks to Dallis Rossi and Stephanie Welches about the jam and mustard samples displayed on her stand at the Haile Farmers Market on Saturday morning.
Pat McCarthy, owner of Nana Pat’s Goodies, talks to Dallis Rossi and Stephanie Welches about the jam and mustard samples displayed on her stand at the Haile Farmers Market on Saturday morning. McCarthy said she started to going to another farmers market after the Union Street Farmers Market changed locations. Maria Valencia / WUFT News

“My business has fallen off anywhere from a third to a half sometimes.” she said. “I think the move threw some people off, and we’re just not seeing the regular customers we used to.”

To make up for the loss, McCarthy works another farmer’s market in the town square at Tioga Town Center and sells at more food festivals, which has its drawbacks.

“Instead of spending four hours in one day, I’m spending eight to 12 hours to make up for it,” she said. “It’s a lot more effort, and I’m finding that I’m having to put in more hours and work more.”

Lybrand believes another reason his business experienced a fall in sales is the amount of time he spends taking care of other vendors’ situations due to the move.

Unlike McCarthy, Lybrand is not trying to supplement the loss with other farmer’s markets. He plans to end his honey business by the end of the year.

“Because I’ve started and run the market, my main concern is keeping the market viable and keeping my vendors to where they can stay in business,” he said. “We’ve had to kind of move things around periodically to get everything to work right, so it’s the logistics of running a market basically.”

With the relocation, came changes that some vendors could not keep up with.

The owner of East End Eatery, Sandra Carlisi, said she had to quit the market altogether because she couldn’t make the new time restriction involved with setting up.

McCarthy said at the former location, vendors could arrive at any time and still be available to vend.

Due to safety concerns at lot #10, vendors have to arrive at a specific time and wait until the customers and pedestrians clear out before leaving the lot, she said. If not, they could be held liable if an accident were to occur.

“For us it’s a just a bit difficult because we close (the restaurant) at 3 p.m., and you have to be in with your vehicle to park there by 3:15,” Carlisi said. “So the logistics for us are just way too tricky.”

Carlisi offsets the difference with her restaurant and catering business, but she misses the exposure the market offered. She would usually get a regular following from it.

Steve Phillips, City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs director, said he was unaware of the negative impacts the move had on the vendors.

He said the city looked at several locations when planning for the move, and it did everything in its power to relocate the market to a location near the old one.

Phillips said the Bo Diddley Community Plaza renovations are expected to be completed by spring 2016, but McCarthy said she is not very optimistic they will be done by then.

“They estimate to their best of their abilities, but construction is notorious for going over estimated times,” she said.

While the majority of vendors have seen decreases, business has increased for several others, like The Cookie Parlor owner Paula Mullally.

Mullally said her sales have gone up by about 80 percent since the move to the new location.

“I think there’s just a lot more people walking by and that’s probably because of the layout,” she said. “I was in a really bad spot (at the old market).”

Ally Gill, a 52-year-old woman in Gainesville and long-time patron of the market, said she felt the new location brought some improvements to her overall experience as a customer.

Gill bikes to the market with her husband after she gets off work on Wednesdays and feels that there is more bicycle parking available now than at the former location.

Carlisi said she looks forward to being back at the old location next year, not only because she wants to increase her sales, but also because she misses being surrounded by others in the community.

“We miss doing the market because we enjoy seeing our people in a different setting,” she said.

About Maria Valencia

Maria is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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