KENNETH VILLAGE — Organizers decided last week to cancel the farmers market here for the rest of the year, but the move may have come too late for one faltering merchant who had opposed the weekly event from the outset.
Sarkis Militonyan, owner of the Kenneth Village Meat and Produce Market, had initially opposed the decision to open a farmers market on the one-block commercial strip, arguing it would undercut his business. Now, the damage has been done, he said.
The grocer has lost 90% of his business in the three months since the farmers market started, he said, and has fallen behind on his rent.
“I’m ready to throw him out,” said landlord Oscar Pallares, who owns Kenneth Road Pharmacy, along with all the commercial property on the same block.
Militonyan spent $1.8 million renovating his leased space, installing new state-of-the-art refrigerators, tiled floors and walls, flat-screen TVs and cash registers, he said.
His store carries organic produce and a range of ethnic foods.
Still, he was struggling to get by, even as he expected business to start picking up after the farmers market ended.
He has so far racked up three eviction notices.
“Before the market came, it was very good for me,” he said.
But other merchants deny the market had a role in affecting Militonyan’s store.
“There was nobody in his shop,” said Marianne Atkinson, owner of Ivy’s Flower Station and the main organizer of the market. “Now I see a lot more people in his shop. I think that his financial problems were not associated with the farmers market.”
Atkinson argued that because of the market, which she billed as a success in recent months, shoppers returning to the area in search of produce would seek out Militonyan’s shop and boost business.
But Rene Karapedian, president of the Kenneth Village Merchants’ Assn., acknowledged attendance at the farmers market had been anemic.
“The farmers market was not a success because of the timing, I think. [It] was too hot, and the way the economy is . . . .” Karapedian said. “I think it wasn’t what we all were hoping it would be, but hopefully it will change, and we’ll have a better turnout next time around.”
Regardless of whether the farmers market took any of Militonyan’s business may be a moot point, unless Pallares gives him some leeway on turning over rent, particularly in light of the sizable investments made in the property, Militonyan said.
“I need more time,” he said.
Pallares indicated the investments and possible impact on the store from the farmers market did not concern him.
“That’s his problem, not mine,” he said.
ZAIN SHAUK covers business and politics. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.