The news on Thursday that the Farmers Market wouldn’t be moving due to resistance from some Wallingford Ave businesses has generated quite a bit of turmoil and emotion. As of this writing, there are 59 comments on the original post, with Wallingford neighbors and businesses weighing in on both sides.

We do our best to practice good, blog-style journalism here at Wallyhood. It’s different from newspaper-style journalism, but ought to adhere to the same basic tenets of fairness and truth (if not impartiality). By not soliciting the opinions of the businesses impacted on an issue this large and charged, we failed.

We took a walk down Wallingford Ave today and stopped in Mirage Shoes, the only business mentioned as in opposition where we were able to find the owners, Karen and Linda, in. That both owners were in and working on Sunday should tell you something about how such a business operates, especially in the midst of an economic downturn. Here’s what we learned.

A large piece of Mirage Shoes customers come from far away (e.g., Renton, Tacoma) holding doctor’s prescriptions. The suggestion that their business either won’t be impacted by the temporary loss of parking or will benefit from the foot traffic that the market produces is belied by the facts they report: their business is down 50% on a typical Farmers Market day as is, and on the day of the Kiddie Parade, which brought hundreds of people to the street (but shut it down for vehicle traffic), they had one of their very rare “Zero Days”, no sales at all, from open until close. Customers are afraid of the hassle of finding distant parking and making their way to the store.

Chutney’s, we’re told, sees an equivalent loss of business on market days. While one wonders whether those who don’t make the trek to Mirage on market days might just come a different day, it’s unlikely the same would be true for a restaurant.

Karen’s eyes were red-rimmed and her voice shook as she described what it was like trying to run a small business, pay the rent, make a living, and then to have an issue like the market rise up and threaten what she and her partner Linda had built. She told us she works six days a week, and asked how we would feel if something threatened our livelihood that way.

She was also furious and hurt by the words she had read, or had been relayed to her, in some of the comments on the original story. “I buy my tomatoes, my lettuce, my vegetables at the market. I love it. I have nothing against the market,” Linda said, “it just needs to go somewhere where it won’t do this to our businesses.”

The fate of the Farmers Market has become a very emotional issue. For many of us, it is about more than where we get our vegetables, it speaks to the character and nature of our neighborhood: a place of our own where we can buy our vegetables straight from the farmers who produce them embodies the image we want of ourselves as a socially conscious neo-agrarian urban village. For others, it is a pocketbook issue that  threatens the welfare and well-being of their livelihood and ability to provide for their families. For some, perhaps like Karen and Linda, it is both.

  1. -- said,

    Businesses are right in what they say. I agree it is very challenging to run your own business, and I also acknowledge that farmers themselves are businesses, and thus moving or closing the market affects them. We want local produce, we want to support local businesses. So it’s gets sticky.

    An area that is regularly regarded as a non-commercial zone does work best: a place where businesses won’t suffer.

    However, where that location is, I’m uncertain. The school parking lots do make sense, and that it would increase competition for U-District market on Saturday and Ballard/Fremont markets on Sundays also makes sense. I’ve thought perhaps the Gas Works parking lot, although I know that does impact visitors to the park.

    There is a parking lot on the route 26 on 35th street, between Woodlawn and Carr Place. It is a paying parking lot, so I would imagine something would need to be given for renting the lot, especially since I imagine some commuters park there, and they cannot remove their car before 2:00 PM if they are at work.

    I have faith a resolution will come. Wallingford, you’ll figure it out.

    Sun, August 29 at 6:17 pm
  2. Kristin said,

    First, thank you to Karen for sharing her concerns. I think all of us on community want to see stores like Mirage thrive in Wallingford.

    I have a few questions:

    Is moving the market to the street going to make business worse than it is on market days, even with the net increase of approximately 28 spaces in the Wallingord Center parking lot?

    Have the business owners talked to others in the same situation, like Ballard or Fremont, to see what their experiences are? (if not, would it impact your decision as a business owner if a community member asked and relayed that information to you?)

    How far away would a market need to be to eliminate the parking impact? One, two, three blocks? (I’m assuming we’d have to relocate away from all small businesses which may be impossible.)

    Are there more opportunities to lure in customers if they’re walking by on market day? Sidewalk sale? Juice bar at the market (Chutney’s)? Have businesses tried this? If so, how did it go? If not, is it not worth additional work?

    Since the pending move of the market has been known, I suspect that there has be a lot of work to determine potential locations. I guess I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath-water so to speak, so it makes sense to me to try to look at the data and facts to make a determination on the market along the street, rather than emotions and fears. Though, it’s not easy when there are unknowns.

    Sun, August 29 at 6:35 pm
  3. stacey said,

    This is a good post. Thank you.

    Sun, August 29 at 6:50 pm
  4. Lily said,

    I appreciate your willingness to reconsider your ideas and research further…that is a beautiful quality.

    I am still thinking of the Good Shepherd Center and/or Meridian Park. Wouldn’t these be beautiful farmers’ market locations? I understand that there isn’t a lot of parking for farmers’ market shoppers necessarily in those areas, but couldn’t most people from wallingford walk or bike there? Does the GSC have a lot going on, on Wednesday afternoons? Have they or the city ever been asked about these areas for setting up a farmers’ market? They seem pretty ideal, though 5 blocks North of the current location and I think possibly a bit East as well…

    I bet that something really wonderful will emerge…

    Sun, August 29 at 7:18 pm
  5. Raffaella said,

    I appreciate the post. I’d hate for this to be a community vs. business issue because I’m really proud of our local businesses. However, I hear a bit of, ‘Not in my backyard,’ in these words. I wouldn’t want our local businesses to go under, but I stand by my belief that a centrally-located farmer’s market just adds something really important to the neighborhood.

    There are plenty of ‘cute’ places to live where you can buy expensive shoes and fabric from locally owned businesses (which is awesome, I love expensive and good-for-my-feet-shoes and I love beautiful fabirc) but you can’t buy toothpaste or tomatoes without getting in your car.

    I don’t want to live there. I want to live somewhere where I can buy my necessities AND nicities on foot from people who are in invested in the community, even if it means some sacrifice on everyone’s part. I pay more to buy books, maps, shoes, shampoo, and veggies in Wallingford. It would be far cheaper for me to drive to Target to buy goods, and I’m a med student who can hardly afford to spend extra money right now. Sometimes, it hurts the wallet to support local businesses, but I consider it an investment in the kind of community I’d like to live in. I’d like those business owners to give back by sharing their parking spaces with us for four hours a week for the farmer’s market.

    I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

    Sun, August 29 at 8:53 pm
  6. fred said,

    gas works park would be a nice choice IMO

    Sun, August 29 at 9:01 pm
  7. Michael Suzerris said,

    I just stopped into the Ballard farmers market today as I often do on Sundays. I don’t usually go to Ballard, let alone shop there. But I can tell you there is a dandy little toy store there, a guitar maker, coffee shops, boutiques, some interesting restaurants,. I’ve shopped at a number of them and spent money in stores I would never have visited were it not for the Ballard market.

    Granted this is on a Sunday morning, not a Wednesday evening. Yes, I am less likely to have dinner at Chutneys when I have a basket of fresh produce that needs to be eaten or put away. But I know where Chutneys is. I also know that they have recently started an all organic menu — thank you Wallyhood — and if you haven’t tried it, you must!!!!

    Local is good. Buying from local farmers is good. Shopping locally is good. The Wallingford Farmers Market keeps me connected locally. Makes me way more likely to stop into a local business than if I did all my produce shopping in Ballard. Think about it folks.

    Sun, August 29 at 9:12 pm
  8. Tara Katz said,

    I don’t know if this would work, or not, but the block where my school is, Interlake Ave. N., between 35 and 36th, is both Commercially zoned AND one block off of Stone Way. Most of the children at both of my schools have been picked up by 3pm daily. Would it be possible to move the Farmer’s Market to my block. We would impact very few businesses as only PNB and I have businesses there, and there is only one 4-plex on the corner and no other homes.
    My school would only benefit from the exposure, and we could even host an art table for kids to enjoy…
    Please feel free to call me and discuss the idea: 206.228.4782
    Tara Katz

    Sun, August 29 at 10:27 pm
  9. Herman said,

    I have a question for Karen, and I don’t ask this to prove a point one way or another, I’m just curious:

    Why would a business that does not benefit from walk-in traffic as you say yours does not, pay the added rent costs to exist in a heavy foot traffic neighborhood?

    I mean, if the majority of your business is destination customers coming from far away, why not rent a space in a strip mall in Shoreline and a) pay less rent, b) benefit from an abundance of parking, and c) not suffer on days when the goings-on of an “in the city” neighborhood make it difficult for your destination customers to reach you?

    Like I said, not trying to prove any point with that, I am legitimately curious. And it is something I wonder every time I see an accountant or law office crop-up in a heavy foot-traffic storefront.

    Sun, August 29 at 11:44 pm
  10. Fruitbat said,

    People seem to be Seattle-politely picking on the one business owner who actually commented. My understanding is that many of the businesses on Wallingford Ave opposed the market move. Let’s not get hung up on the one who was willing to speak out.

    She states that she gets “a large piece” (not a majority) of business from people who have to drive–a legitimate concern. Do any of you run a small business or work for one? A consistent drop in sales one day a week, even only 25%, is a big impact. (And increased parking in the Wallingford Center, with the Center Parking Only signs, is not going to help the Walllingford Ave businesses.)

    Keeping a diverse group of businesses, including ones of practical benefit, will keep the character of Wallingford. If that really was a legitimate question and not a snide comment–oh, maybe Mirage is located there because they have been for more than a decade, and have built a customer base who are familiar with the location. Moving a business means people think you went out of business–not to mention the costs of building out a new space (again, do you work for a small independent business? have you any idea?)

    Anyway, I think Wallingford needs a diverse and local group of 7-days-a week businesses more than it even needs a farmer’s market.

    Mon, August 30 at 6:59 am
  11. Fruitbat said,

    To expand on the idea that a diverse group of businesses is more important than the farmers’ market:

    Get ready for the big heresy– Maybe Wallingford simply can’t sustain a farmers’ market. Moving the market to Saturday or Sunday will compete with the University and Ballard markets–not even so much for customers as for vendors. If there isn’t a viable space for a bigger weekday market, Wallingfordians will just have to hop on the 44 to one of the weekend markets. Its not the end of the world. It’s nice to have a market in the middle of the neighborhood, but the explosion of farmers’ markets in the last few years may have hit the limits of expansion.

    Seriously, Wallingford is positioned between two very nice markets. Wallingfordians will not lack for produce bought from the grower. If there is no good location for a larger weekday market here, and the current market is not paying for itself, then, like any business that can’t pay for itself, it, sadly, will have to close. Will Wallingford be a little the less for the loss? Yes. Will Wallingford still be a desirable place to live and shop, all week, year round? Yes.

    Mon, August 30 at 7:07 am
  12. DOUG. said,

    For every business like Mirage, who has “zero days” and weak sales when events like the Kiddie Parade and the Farmers Market are in the ‘hood, I wonder if other businesses (like Trophy Cupcakes, Fainting Goat and Izilla Toys) have increased sales?

    Also, just because Mirage has zero days during the Kiddie Parade doesn’t mean they’re not doing business. Folks come from all over town for that event. Aren’t these potential customers perhaps seeing your business for the first time? No, maybe they’re not buying women’s comfort shoes while toting their child from bouncy house to bouncy house, but maybe your shop is now on their radar.

    I’ve heard anecdotally (and seen with my own eyes) that the Wallingford Art Walk has suffered for support from local business. Running a business in a residential neighborhood is a two-way street. Reach out to us and we’ll return the favor.

    Mon, August 30 at 8:01 am
  13. iyqtoo said,

    @fruitbat. I absolutely agree. An alternative proposal: Wednesday afternnoons make a fine opportunity for socializing in the ‘hood, but a quality greengrocer would certainly meet my grocery needs a whole lot better than the W’ford farmers mkt does.

    Wasn’t it just last week that City Council made it easier to sell produce grown in local back yards and pea patches? And just think about all those freshly-laid eggs. Seems to me like a timely opportunity for an ambitious entrepreneur to approach Freddie (owner of Rancho Bravo) about subletting the old Winchell’s building for a co-op greengrocer! It would probably meet his needs too…

    Mon, August 30 at 8:37 am
  14. Donna said,

    Yes, it’s nice to have diverse businesses and I try to patronize them. However, most of them are not selling things I want to buy. The shoe store is among the exceptions. Although I buy shoes at Mirage about once a year, I buy fruit and vegetables at the farmers market every Wednesday during its season unless I’m out of town. The farmers market is a place where I’m likely to meet friends and neighbors. It’s an asset to the community that a produce store cannot replace. Is there any possibility of using the Wallingford Playlot for the market? It has the advantage of being near the center of the community.

    Mon, August 30 at 9:06 am
  15. CindyY said,

    @Herman, I’ve been wondering the same thing! Like that place on 45th that used to be Jitterbug, but now doesn’t have any customer-facing operations at all. I’m sure they’re doing something legit in there, but why spend the money on that location?

    Ditto for when you see odd stands at street fairs, like a gutter replacement vendor (not an impulse buy) next to someone selling purses made of belt buckles (an impulse buy). I’m unlikely to make a major home improvement decision at a street fair — but then again, I get what people are saying about brand placement/recognition.

    I would love to hear a business-owner answer on this — like Herman, just curious.

    Mon, August 30 at 9:25 am
  16. Nancy M said,

    Perhaps the underlying paradigm is that Seattle can no longer sustain most small, independent retail stores. Our “sales tax collectors” suffer greatly by having to add close to 10% to what they sell (and process those funds, part of the job description) as Costco, Guitar Center, ShoeLand, HempLand and Bookville and the interweb offer cheaper if petroleum-dependent options, the latter generally tax-free (and don’t forget about driving to Oregon for that new tv!). We all love farmers markets, we all love little stores, but maybe the latter are on their way to the nostalgia bin. Commercial rents are still through the roof; it takes a lot of sales shoes, cat food and books to pay thousands of dollars monthly in rent.

    Thank you for redirecting, Jordan, but it was really 11th hour. If people are determined to talk with people allegedly involved, how about making an after-hours appointment – those people are working, or trying to.

    Mon, August 30 at 9:37 am
  17. Kristin said,

    I looked online at a few reports and it looks like there are various experiences retailers have had with sales when adjacent to a farmers’ market. In Oregon, there was a study that showed 33-65% of people shopped at the stores while at the markets (they looked at seven). In the greater Chicago area, people didn’t shop elsewhere at all.

    I don’t know if the studies are relevant, since the research did not specify whether the farmers’ markets were located in an adjacent parking lot and a partially closed street and I don’t know if moving it to Wallingford Avenue from the current location is going to impact the sales one way or another.

    Here’s a link to one article:
    http://www.futurity.org/society-culture/going-steady-with-a-local-farmers-market/

    The other is a pdf and I can’t figure out how to link it, but it’s from OSU and called “Research Brief: How Do Farmers’ Markets Affect Neighboring Businesses?”.

    I’m not sure how helpful this is to the argument one way or another.

    @Fruitbat: I do want to clarify the parking comment I made. I am thinking that, with more Wallingford Center parking spaces, patrons of the Wallingford Center will park in the lot, thus freeing up spaces on the street. Many of those will be taken by market partons, but people will potentially be able to park closer than they had before (assuming the market doesn’t bring in more cars that it does now).

    And, based on a quick read, the comments from the previous Wallyhood post run about 2:1 in favor for working out a way to continue with the proposed plan versus finding a new location. I’m not saying that’s how this is supposed to be decided, but I think it’s good to understand what people are thinking.

    I would also be interested to know what locations have already been looked at and eliminated and why. But, I’m just making work for someone else with that request.

    Mon, August 30 at 9:56 am
  18. Mark said,

    This is the first I have read of the issue, but I do support the local businesses and the farmer’s market. Reading one of the posts above, the suggestion for the Good Shepard Center would be a fabulous location for the market. Placing it inside the park on the Southwest corner would be a nice addition because we could shop for local produce and have our kids in tow enjoying the park.

    Living really close to this location, we are very familiar with the traffic the edible plant sale and the like causes and the area is able to sustain that with not a lot of headaches. The traffic for the farmers market would be considerably less.

    Given the space that is available in the park, it could open the possibility for more vendors to join the Wallingford Farmers Market.

    That’s just my two cents on it, I am sure there are a lot of zoning and cost issues to figure out in this situation, but I have been to many events hosted by Tilth and have always loved the feel there. Thanks

    Mon, August 30 at 11:04 am
  19. Maggie said,

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the impression I got from the original article was they were planning on moving to Wallingford Ave. for the duration of this year’s market. By my count that’s four more weeks. It seems like it would be far too challenging to russtle up the permits for four more weeks in an entirely different location. If the center and/ or surrounding businesses could allow the change for just those weeks that could get the farmers through the season and give the businesses the opportunity to see how the change in location really effects their sales. That would also give us as a community several months to explore alternative locations for the market. Seems like a fair compromise to me. How does that sound to the rest of you?

    Mon, August 30 at 2:48 pm
  20. Herman said,

    @fruitbat
    No, I am not a small business owner. That’s why I asked the question. I’m not really too sure why the question seems to have offended you either.

    And if someone does want to answer I am still curious: Why would someone pay extra rent for a storefront in a heavy foot traffic area for a business that does not benefit from foot traffic? Why not locate in a stripmall with parking/highway access/no market?

    Nit trying to single anyone out here. Just curious.

    Mon, August 30 at 2:56 pm
  21. Herman said,

    Also, I am not trying to argue that our community doesn’t benefit from having “destination” businesses. Maybe it does. That’s not my point. In fact, I don’t even have a point. Just a curiousity.

    Mon, August 30 at 3:06 pm
  22. Chris said,

    Hmm, how sustainable is this? The other posts say the farmer’s market is operating at a loss, yet it would seem they pay no rent. (Is that correct?)

    I’m wondering if there’s a more cost-effective way for farmers to sell their goods? Just brainstorming, but perhaps the food could be stored somewhere permanently, so it would be available consistently instead of just once a week for a few hours. We could even climate-control this “store” so the food lasts longer.

    Why we could even give customers access to this “store” and perhaps give them convenient carts with wheels -Oh AND co-locate other types of food so it’s ultra-convenient. It would be like a market but better. A “super” market if you will.

    Mon, August 30 at 3:20 pm
  23. Donna said,

    My understanding is that the market is operating at a loss because it is too small. It needs to be larger to be profitable.

    Mon, August 30 at 3:38 pm
  24. Chris said,

    How could that be? If you are already getting the product directly from the mfr, there’s no way to make up a loss by larger volume.

    Mon, August 30 at 5:02 pm
  25. Shannon said,

    Well said…this is exactly the type of discussions we need to be having on this blog. It brings in different sides, but acknowledges that in the end we love our neighborhood and each other.

    Mon, August 30 at 7:05 pm
  26. Kara said,

    great discussions, everyone – and i’m going to post something longer shortly.

    i can actually answer many of these questions, but probably can’t write much till after this Community Meeting. hope to see you all there!

    Mon, August 30 at 8:41 pm
  27. DOUG. said,

    By the way, thanks for the follow-up, Jordan. I’m sure there’s other things you’d rather be doing on a Sunday afternoon.

    Mon, August 30 at 9:05 pm
  28. Fruitbat said,

    Herman–because it sounded like a pointed question. I apologize if you were 100% curious and non-judgmental.

    Why do businesses open where they do? As a small business operator, you should know the 100 small reasons that color a decision. A lawyer or accountant opens a street-front office because they get recognition from foot or even drive-by and bus-by traffic that they will never get from a second story office. A large percentage of people don’t shop around for such services, but go somewhere they’ve seen. Street-level storefronts may come with better wiring already in place and require less build-out work. They are more likely to be disability-accessible. They are more likely to be on a bus line, which brings clients/customers as well as a broader employee base. Being in a storefront keeps lawyers and accountants more part of the community, not tucked away somewhere discreetly. (Speaking of discretion–better to ask why waxing salons take street-level storefronts.) Especially in a slow economy, a storefront may be a reasonable rent compared to an upstairs office. A specialty business like comfort custom embroidery or reweaving (we miss you!) may have settled in years or decades ago and not want to face the disruption or expense of moving. And hey, how many coffee joints do we need?

    Again, I point out that in the case of Mirage, the posting says “a large piece” of the business comes from far away. This would indicate a significant portion being local. There was a time not so long ago when Wallingford seemed like a sensible-shoe kind of place.

    Finally–I don’t know either what the heck is up with the Chow foods office at the JItterbug space. I’m sure it make economic sense for them, but it doesn’t do the streetscape any favors to have a non-client based office in a big storefront. Better than a vacancy, I guess…

    Tue, August 31 at 7:09 am
  29. Fruitbat said,

    Iyqtoo–thanks–yes, a year-round open-all-week greengrocer, co-op or not, would do a lot more good for the area than a once-a-week in summer market. Yeah, it’s less fun, but more useful.

    Tue, August 31 at 7:12 am
  30. Kristin said,

    Maggie, I believe that was proposed to the businesses and they declined. My understanding is that the Wallingford Center will continue to host for the remainder of the season.

    Tue, August 31 at 7:52 am
  31. Rachelle Mee-Chapman said,

    I love the ladies at Mirage shoes and buy there once a year or so — when my pair of Danskos finally wear out! I can totally understand how the Market could benefit some business and hurt others. I avoid the area like a plague on Market day, unless I’m on foot to go to the market. Tho I assiduious use the local shops as much as possible on other days — especially Kids on 45th, and Lil’ Klippers.

    I also love the Market and hope we can find a place for it to live. My husband and I were talking it over last night and wondering — could it be placed in the Gasworks parking lot? We live a few blocks from there and aside from even days, the lot is not often full. It’s got decent traffic flow, but would still be walkable from parts of Wallingford.

    I truly hope our creative neighborhood can find a solution that works for everyone.

    Tue, August 31 at 8:49 am
  32. Kara said,

    come to tonight’s Community mtg for more info on all of the above.
    i can address more of these questions and concerns after tonight.
    we have tried many locations, and there are many reasons why some won’t work. BUT this doesn’t mean we can’t find somewhere for the Market!

    Tue, August 31 at 5:16 pm
  33. Kara said,

    btw, please see
    http://www.wallyhood.org/2010/08/reminder-chamber-meeting-tuesday/comment-page-1/#comment-23316
    for some excellent comments on this subject by your Wallingford Community Council VP.

    Tue, August 31 at 5:17 pm
  34. MetaDot said,

    For what it’s worth, market days on Wednesday in Wallingford are a much-welcomed “hinge” to my week. We can stop at the market, buy fish, produce (by the way, whether walking or driving I have never once had a problem with traffic or parking), and also can stop in at Pharmaca for any needs, the hardware store for odds and ends, the Fainting Goat for a treat for the kids. I think of Wednesday’s “market day” as so much more than just the vendors in the parking lot. They are my draw, but I definitely stay and shop at other stores — including travel books at Wide World Maps and shoes at Mirage. :-) I sincerely hope that the market stays; it embodies all the best parts of what I love about living in such a highly “walkable” area, and only emphasizes the sense of community that I want to feel for Wallingford. It puts a “there” here in a way that isn’t always obvious to me without the market. I am fully aware that I am joining the debate very very late, but just wanted to add my voice.

    Tue, September 28 at 11:36 pm

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