Insurance, electric, phone, DSL, water, business license, other licenses, permits ... Oh My! I've been on the phone for the past 48 hours. Have I forgot anything?
Sorry for the cheesy title, but we had a minor setback today (just some minor legal stuff), so we are trying to stay positive ourselves. We will be closing on the property next week instead of this week. :-( These things happen. Sometimes, despite all the best efforts (I am a firstborn Type A personality, in case you couldn't tell), you simply don't know what you don't know and find out a bit later than expected. We especially want to thank the current owners of the building for their patience!
Nevertheless, we continue to receive inquiries about leasable indoor spaces, as well as outdoor vendor spaces. We are also still gathering information of local producers who desire to sell their grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken and eggs, and a whole slew of other great items!
So, the plan is that there will be a "soft opening" in early September, with a grand opening at a later date.
Yes, we received our zoning approval, for which we are very grateful.
I am reminded of a wonderful quote that I came across recently: "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." — Martin Luther King, Jr.
As I see it, we are about half way up the staircase of this project.
Due to the normal routine of schedules, which includes various folks' summer vacations, we have to put off the open air market for a few weeks yet.
We've been approved for 16 outdoor spaces. With the closing on the property, we are looking to have the first outdoor market in early August. Understandably this is the end of the growing season, and many vendors are already committed elsewhere. However, this will give us some time get some of our other "ducks in a row."
Just like "slow food", these things take time. Stay tuned for updates!
We are pleased to announce that we have received the official approval of the Town of Mount Jackson to proceed with Phase I!
We will be a bit smaller at the start, but will have the opportunity to grow into the space. The Open Air Outdoor Market will have approximately 16 spaces. For Vendors, that means get 'em quick. The deal is only good while supplies last!
We still have a bit more work to do to get ready, so please keep being patient with us...
Note: The Town will be presenting the new definition for "farmers market" for inclusion into the Town Code at this evening's Planning Commission Meeting. This will then go to the Town Council on July 12, then set for a public hearing.
If you haven't yet "liked" our Facebook page, please do! We are two shy of 100 (but who's counting?)
We will continue to keep the blog running, but the Facebook page will be a great repository for lot of other things such as events around the area and even great recipes to help you figure out what to do with all the great produce we know that you will buying form the Market!
So, come on over and Like us on Facebook to be sure to get the latest and greatest! Here's the link: www.facebook.com/mjfarmersmarket
I know that everyone is eagerly waiting for details... And at the Mount Jackson Farmers' Market, we aim to please.
To date, we are waiting on a decision of our zoning application. The property at 5973 South King Street has sat vacant longer than 2 years, which means that the property has lost any and all grandfathered "exceptions". It also means that the property needs to be brought current with the existing Town Zoning Codes. (Note: this is not a building code issue, but a zoning issue.) Beyond this, it starts to get pretty technical and boring.
The Town is also doing its due diligence as well. There is no definition in the Town Codes for a "farmers market". Therefore, the term and a proposed definition will be proposed at the next Planning Commission meeting to be held on Monday, July 11. (Come on out and support it!)
Aside from all this, the Market continues to get inquiries from prospective vendors and tenants. We have a very clear construction schedule outlined, broken into 3 phases to help spread out the expense, but are admittedly still looking for a silent partner or that angel investor. The building is pretty sound overall, but there are number of little things that add up to some significant upfront costs. Building codes require an accessible ramp, some railings, and accessible bathrooms. The building itself needs a bit of TLC (roof, a new porch beam, and some cosmetic upgrades.) Phase I will require about $100k, which includes parking lot paving and landscaping required by the Town. Honestly, we had hoped for some financial help from the Town by way of an economic development loan, but have since found that the monies are unavailable. Banks, in the current economy, are very difficult on "start ups". We will get a significant amount of what we spend on improvements back through historic tax credits, but we need the funds up front.
Additionally, we continue to study what works and what doesn't work at farmers markets. We will be sharing some of our insights along the way, but here are a few:
Farmers Markets can be wonderful community centers. They can also be a real downer for the vendors, especially if the market is just starting out. Farmers markets can take some time to "catch on" in a community. Why go to the market one or two days a week when the local grocery store is open 24-7? The food sometimes is pricier than the supermarket. So why buy at a farmers market? Well...there are a number of reasons from supporting your local neighbors to simply knowing that your food is grown local. Studies have found that eating local can decrease environmental issues such as allergies. If you eat the food that is around you, then you are getting doses of the local environment in each bite, and allergies are less likely to be such an issue. And just think about all the ecoli scares you hear on the news. One week it's "Don't eat this", the next, "don't eat that." Buying local means that you know where your food is coming from. It also means you probably know the farmer. Buying local also
Once a farmers market catches on in a community, it becomes an amazing community hub. It often becomes THE place to be. Like the local hair salon, or greasy spoon, Farmers Markets often develop into a place where everyone knows your name, and where you can get the latest information about everything and anything.
So, what can makes or breaks a farmers market:
1. Location, location, location
2. Number of vendors - the issue here is that people want variety. The more, the merrier. Most people attending any sort of market are looking for an experience. That experience may be in finding a specific or unique product that can't get somewhere else. Or, it may simply be the experience of the market itself. Either way, the market must have a bit of everything to be successful.
3. Presentation - farmers markets are expected to be somewhat rustic. However, presentation should never be underestimated. Clean produce is a must. (That whole theory that the dirt keeps the veggies fresh only goes so far when the dirt is all over a customer's backseat or trunk.) Throw a kitsch table cloth over that bare table. Put a bow or piece of rafia around that packaging. Use paper instead of plastic (it's better for the environment, but also looks more like a market than a Big Box store.) Add a whimsical something to your table that will brand you and make people remember you for more than your quality produce. Make it personal. If you're selling veggies, stack them in a nice display or use some nice baskets.
4. Lack of market knowledge - If you are offering something that people simply don't want, no matter how wonderful you think your product may be, you may have to face the music that great grandma's recipe for depression-era flour-less, flavorless devil's food cake is just not going to sell. This makes the vendor miserable, who then makes the customers miserable. A customer is more likely to remember a bad experience than a good one.
5. Packing up early - oh boy! This is a big one. Did you know that most mall leases require all stores to be open at specified hours and actually fine stores that fail to meet this standard? There is one reason for this: the basic marketing plan of a mall is based on variety under one roof. Customers expect to be able to shop at all stores when the mall is open. They expect consistency. You may have customers who show up early, buy and then go on with the rest of their day. For a weekend market in particular, there are that many more customers who may sleep in on the one or two days a week they have off, and show up just before the market closes. If vendors are packing up before the market closes, a customer feels uncomfortable. Bottom line: Farmers Markets are about supporting each other, and you owe it to the other vendors to stick it out to the bitter end, even if you are not making sales.
6. Advertising - last but not least is advertising. Many markets will do a flat fee for the season and then take a commission of each vendors' sales. We are opting for a flat fee for each market day (simple rent). This fee will be used primarily for advertising, which will include interstate signage. This signage has certain requirements that we uniquely meet because of the daily indoor market. We also plan to advertise in regional publications, which are fairly costly, but necessary for success.
That's it for now. Have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend!