The River City Farmers Market, a staple of Marietta for decades, has had more than its share of locations, from empty warehouses to parking lots to under the Williamstown Bridge. Until quite recently, though, it has spent several years at the Washington County Fairgrounds. But according to Tom Fagan of the market’s board of directors, they are making a move that he hopes will be a permanent one. On Saturday, August 1st, with the help of the City of Marietta, the market moved downtown and folks could not be happier with the change.
Ben and Megan Williams of Cornerstone Homestead, purveyors of goat’s milk soaps, lotions, lip balms, and several other items, are quite happy with the new location, which is on Butler Street between Second and Third Streets. “We’re excited,” Ben said. “It’s going really great,” his wife added. “We’ve seen lots of new faces. Seen lots of traffic. A lot of people. We’ve seen people we haven’t seen in years.”
Dave Michael, owner of Leviathan, which sells rings made from coins, agrees. “Number one, it is new. But it’s very convenient for people to come downtown.” Michael liked the fairgrounds in that he had an inside booth, but he definitely enjoyed the increased foot traffic of downtown.
“Here, everyone is familiar with the downtown area. The merchants are just right across the street. [Shoppers can] go get pizza, go to a Mexican restaurant.” Michael has one concern, though, which is what will happen with the market when the weather turns in the fall. “Being an all-year market, being indoors meant a lot to us because of the Christmas season, but now moving to the outside as it gets closer to Christmas, the market will probably close in October if we’re still outside.”
When asked about that issue, Fagan said they are working toward continuing the market as a year-round entity, though in what form was unclear for the moment. “We are playing that by ear. Verbally, some people from the city said we might be able to use the parking lot during wintertime and do a drive-through market.” They are looking at other possibilities, but Fagan said that the market was much more limited in size from December to April even when it was indoors. “Mostly people like Twin Pines with the milk. A couple of people sell beef and we’ve got a fellow that sells pork and eggs—stuff like that goes through the winter.”
Brandon Lovett of Sláinte Farms, was fully enthusiastic about the move. “It’s been terrific. With the increased volume in foot traffic, we’ve seen at least double the amount of sales.” According to Lovett, they sold out of all their produce the first weekend on Butler Street despite rainy weather. Citing the convenience of the new spot to other attractions, Lovett posited that it’s likely many people who come downtown to have lunch in a nearby restaurant or browse in a shop may be attracted to the market and vice versa.
“Somebody comes down to get honey or fresh produce or whatever and go grab lunch and hit up another one of the shops on Front Street. I think it’s a slam dunk for everybody.”
When asked about the motivation behind moving, Fagan pointed to two things. First, the fairgrounds raised their rent by over 300%. It was so high, in fact, it was going to be hundreds of dollars more than their entire operating budget, allowing for no money to do advertising or pay for insurance. But even if their old home hadn’t become economically infeasible, Fagan and the other members of the market’s board had been discussing a downtown market for some time.
“There’d been some talk, a few of us, and I’ve always wanted to do a street market and we had talked with the City of Marietta years ago about doing a street market.” Fagan had hoped to use a portion of Second Street, but representatives of the city felt that was just too busy a street and could pose safety hazards. “So, they suggested here and I’m so glad they did because this street is not a heavy-use street.” Because, Fagan said, there are no buildings facing Butler, there is little danger of the fire department or other emergency vehicles needing to access the street.
And business has been booming. Fagan reported they have picked up three new vendors in just the first two weeks. And existing merchants are reporting greatly increased sales. “I think for a lot of our vendors, I think they’ll probably have better sales down here.” Fagan is hopeful that even if they can’t find a good location for the winter, the increase in sales during summer will make up for any losses.
“If you take the whole year into the equation, their sales will probably be better even if it’s not as good during the wintertime. I think it’s going to be better during the summer. I think it’ll make up and compensate for it.”
So, come downtown next Saturday from 8:00 am to Noon and check out the River City Farmers Market in its new location. You’ll find all the produce you can think of—and even some you may never have thought of—along with baked goods, arts, crafts, and homemade jewelry, just to name a few. You’re sure to find something you just have to have. And because it’s now in a new convenient locale, you can pop into a shop and dine in one of the city’s many top-notch local eateries while you’re there. All within easy walking distance. It will make for a fun, filling morning for your entire family.