Vendors face challenge at Glendale's struggling farmers market

The Downtown Glendale Market continues to struggle in attracting customers since moving to its new location in January, and few of the longtime vendors are left, though organizers said they will stay committed to putting on the weekly farmers market.

When the Thursday market moved from Brand Boulevard to the parking lot of the First Baptist Church on Maryland Avenue, about half of vendors tagged along. Now, there are only three remaining vendors from the original location, said farmers market manager Carole Gallegos.

But many new vendors have come and left since the beginning of the year. At the market last Thursday, there were about 18 vendors, though the typical number is closer to 30, Gallegos said.

The bigger problem, however, is the lack of patrons — a situation that leaves little incentive for merchants to participate.

“I see the same people come every week, which is good, people come back,” Gallegos said. “We just need new people to come. We need a bigger audience.”

The Downtown Glendale Assn., which manages the farmers market, announced last fall the weekly event held on Brand north of Broadway would move to the Baptist church parking lot because it would be less cramped and accommodate more merchants.

The association has advertised the event at bus stops and has sent out thousands of mailers.

Oscar Ramirez, an employee of the Santa Maria-based Rancho La Familia, said he took issue with the fact that a key phrase isn’t mentioned in the fliers.

“The fliers don’t actually say, ‘farmers market.’ They say, ‘downtown market’, so [people] don’t know it’s a farmers market,” he said. “If you put farmers market in there, it changes the whole thing.”

Rancho La Familia, a seller of fruits and vegetables, started setting up shop at the Glendale farmers market about three months ago and Ramirez plans to continue making the three-hour drive every week for the time being.

He said he even acknowledges that starting a new farmers market or moving one might take a year or two to catch on fully with customers.

That’s a sentiment Tim Gallagher, a spokesman for the association, said he shares.

“We’re disappointed, but we’re committed to growing,” he said.

Since the beginning of the year, the association has spent about $60,000 on marketing efforts and there aren’t any new ones on the horizon, Gallagher said. Instead, there could be talks soon to shift the hours from the morning to the afternoon and evening, he said.

“We’re really considering, do we have the right hours of operation?” Gallagher said. “Is a morning market best or is Thursday afternoon the right time?”

In April, Gallagher said the farmers market made about $4,000 to $5,000 a week, but that figure has dropped since the departure of some vendors.

But Gallagher said association officials think the market has and will always play a role in the organization’s vision for downtown rather than serve as a moneymaker.

“There is no discussion of ending the market,” he said.

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