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Thursday Arbutus Farmers Market to remain at alternative site

Donna Jordan, of Arbutus, buys some fresh vegetables from Stoecker Farms' Rebecca Stoecker, right, of Middle River at the Arbutus Farmers Market on July 19.
Donna Jordan, of Arbutus, buys some fresh vegetables from Stoecker Farms' Rebecca Stoecker, right, of Middle River at the Arbutus Farmers Market on July 19. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda)

Hoping to raise its visibility among local residents, the Arbutus Farmers Market is making its alternative location its new permanent home.

For the past two weeks, the market had been held on a parking lot near the intersection of Oregon Avenue and Sulphur Spring Road in downtown Arbutus.

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The weekly summer market, now in its second year, had had to move from its usual area on the parking lot of the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department to accommodate the Fire Department's annual carnival.

Patti Sue Nolan, president of the Arbutus Business Professional Association, which runs the market, said the new location should bring greater visibility for the vendors, only three of which were open for business July 19.

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Nolan said the market, which usually averages seven vendors, missed two vendors because of vacations and an organic farming vendor because the recent scorching weather had taken a toll on his crops.

She said several customers who walked by the market during the past two weeks said they didn't know that Arbutus had a farmers market.

"We've been over there for a year and they didn't even know," Nolan said with exasperation.

"Whatever's best for the vendors is okay with me," Nolan said.

Vendors at the market, which is open Thursdays, 2:30-6:30 p.m., saw strong sales at the new site.

"I think we get more exposure," said Kim Anderson of Anderson and Son Seafood. "If people can walk to it, that's even all the better."

Though the market had only a smattering of customers on July 19, Anderson blamed the hot weather and jokingly said business would increase "if the weather would cooperate and act more like summer."

The move effectively ends the market's attempt to lure MARC train commuters to stop in downtown Arbutus.

"I don't know how to get them to stop," Nolan said. "People stop at a grocery store on the way home. Why don't they stop at a market?"

The previous location at the Fire Department was hidden from traffic on East Drive and Southwestern Boulevards, two roads with heavy traffic.

Eric Boardley, who owns Art and Cake Bakery with his wife, Afrodita, said the commuters have a one-track mind once they get in their cars after a day at work.

"It's my theory that once people get in their cars, they're not stopping until they get home," Boardley said at the market on July 19. "Here we get more of the community because we're in the heart of the community."

Though the new lot is smaller, that could be an advantage to the vendors who show up, said Rebecca Stoecker, who sold vegetables for Stoecker Farms in Middle River and White Hall.

"I think people were pretty receptive to us being here," Stoecker said July 12. "When you have everybody in here, it makes it look a lot busier."

Nolan said the market will now focus on drawing shoppers from the community as it builds on its success the past two weeks at its new location.

Arbutus resident Randy Shaffer purchased some squash from Stoecker Farms just before 5 p.m. on July 19 and said both the former and current locations are convenient to his home on Old Sulphur Spring Road.

"It's great," Shaffer said. "As long as there's fresh vegetables, I'll be here."

Don Madden, also of Arbutus, attended the farmers market for the first time on July 12, its first appearance at its new location, he said.

Madden purchased garlic bread and rolls after seeing the market when he left DePaola's Pub and Grill next door.

"It's some very nice people and a nice variety (of products) to choose from," Madden said.

Andy DePaola, owner of DePaola's Pub and Grill, has also taken advantage of the farmers market at its new location.

"I was able to buy local tomatoes, local peppers and local eggplant," he said.

The produce, DePaola said, was larger than what he could get at the store and he integrated them into his menu.

One of the vendors at the location on July 12 sold hot pickles that DePaola used for pickletinis, a drink that adds pickle flavor to a martini.

The market also drummed up some business for the restaurant that opened in April.

"We put our sandwich board up there toward that area and people coming by for the farmers market were coming for lunch," DePaola said.

One potential hiccup with the current location is it closes a parking lot that had two spots reserved for people using the laundromat.

Nolan said she has attempted to address the problem by buying the first load of laundry for any laundromat patrons inconvenienced by the market.

She gave out $10 , enough for four loads of laundry, on July 12.

But no customers came to use the laundromat during the first few hours of the July 19 farmers market, she said.

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