by Brent Kalwei
Grandview Aldermen interviewed candidates seeking to manage the Farmers Market at the board’s work session held Tuesday, May 2.
Those applying for management were Grandview Main Street and the Farmers Market’s current manager Larry French.
Grandview Main Street’s focus would be to expand upon the existing Farmers Market, with functions such as a wine walk, food trucks, family-friendly entertainment and events, Christmas in July and potential partnerships with 8th and Main and the Grandview Arts Council, to include activities such as music and sidewalk chalk art.
“We envision a lot more than just a Farmers Market. We envision activity and what would be the heartbeat of our downtown,” Grandview Main Street President Mary Wilson said. “Our main goal is to get people into our downtown and to showcase our businesses that we already have there, and hopefully garner future investment in our community in the process.”
Ward One Alderman Damon Randolph asked Grandview Main Street representatives what they thought the Farmers Market’s biggest challenge is.
“Marketing. I live here and I forget about it often,” Grandview Main Street Secretary Kim Curtis said.
Grandview Main Street added that they can provide marketing for the Grandview Farmers Market event through social media outlets, the Grandview Chamber of Commerce and the Jackson County Advocate. The Aldermen discussed marketing the Farmers Market with electronic signs.
Alderman Ward Three James Crain expressed concern about Grandview Main Street having the manpower to volunteer for events that complement the Farmers Market.
“Our business and volunteer community as a whole doesn’t seem to want to get involved unless something is happening,” Wilson said. “We haven’t really had a whole lot happening. When we hosted our original open house for Grandview Main Street, we had a list of people who showed interest, and that’s what we’ll build off of in the beginning.”
“I think if we truly want to have different results, we should give Main Street a chance,” Alderman Ward One Sandra Kessinger said. “I think they have a lot of players already here in the community who have a vested interest in the success of anything that’s going on in Grandview. I think that’s the piece that is missing.”
Ward Two Alderman Annette Turnbaugh expressed interest in French and Grandview Main Street taking partnership in leading the Farmers Market.
“I don’t want to get too far away from what the Farmers Market is,” Turnbaugh said. “I would like to see a marriage of the two. I want to make sure that we have somebody at that Farmers Market that knows the laws, rules and regulations of the county, or we can get in trouble.”
Mayor Leonard Jones believes an operation should be run by one leader opposed to many.
“My problem with that is that you always want one throat to choke. You don’t want two throats,” Jones said. “I can tell you from a manager’s perspective, the worst thing you can do is have one, two or three heads. That’s called a freak, and that’s not good.”
French wants to keep the originality of the Farmers Market.
“One of the first things I will tell you about markets,” he said, “if you switch today, you will kill the market. Belton took their market from 30 vendors to four. Most of the big vendors come from 40-60 miles away. They are not from right here. They are not going to move out of their markets.”
Jones prefers the Farmers Market be held on a day during the week.
“I’m from the old school. I think a change of date would probably be a good idea,” he said. “The reason I say that, is because my Saturday is jam-packed. Personally I’ve got so much going on Saturday that I forget about the Farmers Market.”
Alderman Ward Three John Maloney asked French if Farmers Market attendees are seeking any particular items that current vendors do not already provide. French’s answer was certified organics.
According to Ward Two Alderman Brian Hochstein, the Farmers Markethas received very little interest from the community. Hochstein, who is sometimes a vendor at the Farmers Market, said that he had a net loss in his first year of selling.
“It takes local people selling local,” Hochstein said. “As a vendor, you never want to miss regardless of if it is raining. If you miss one time, you could break that relationship. It is a difficult game for not a lot of money.”
Hochstein has in the past heard comments about how expensive the vendors’ products are.
“I’m like, ‘compared to what?’” he said. “It’s handmade, it takes a lot of time, and our profit margins are miniscule.”
Ultimately, three aldermen voted for French to continue the management of the Farmers Market, two voted for Grandview Main Street and one voted for a partnership.
Jones stated he would like the Farmers Market to provide additional vendors.
“The more vendors, the greater possibility and excitement that you would have people utilizing the products and goods being provided,” Jones said. “The less number of providers is just the opposite.”
French has managed the market for the last several years, and also works as Grandview Farmers Market’s main vendor each week. Jones responded to the question of if French being a Farmers Market vendor and the manager is a conflict of interest.
“That will always be a question that some people could have,” he said. “You’re not going to erase that question regardless. Somebody is going to be chosen. Is it going to be somebody that is already there and has a spot or not? You’re going to have a 50/50 chance.”
Despite not receiving the nod of approval from the Board of Aldermen, Grandview Main Street plans to continue with the idea of bringing the local community back into downtown.
“While the Aldermen didn’t want us to manage the Saturday market, they didn’t say we couldn’t move on with our original Thursday plans,” said Wilson. “There is tremendous opportunity for activity in our downtown. We’d like to breathe a new life into our businesses and our public spaces, while preserving the rich history that our community sometimes seems to forget.”
Jones likes Grandview Main Street’s idea to get away from the norm, and looking for additional event opportunities.
“It’s great to see the Grandview Main Street group thinking outside of the box,” Jones said. “That’s exactly what the city of Grandview needs. I think a lot of the proprietors on Main Street will be excited to know that there is something going on Monday through Friday.”
The Grandview Farmers Market runs from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday on the southwest corner of the intersection of 8th and Goode Avenue.