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.