MONTROSE — In the months since imposing strict oversight measures that spurred allegations of embezzlement, the weekly Montrose farmers market has brought in more money so far than was expected for the entire year, according to a recent budget report.
As of March 3, the market had brought in an average of roughly $600 per week and was forecast to lose $52,000 this year. Three months later, reported revenues jumped more than 500% to an average of $4,000 each week, according to a fiscal report prepared by the Montrose Shopping Park Assn., which operates the market.
The Sunday Harvest Market is now on track to make a $30,000 profit after years of operating in the red.
The spike in revenue comes as Glendale police investigate allegations that former City Councilman John Drayman — a key organizer of the market until recently — embezzled money from the association.
Glendale police, who served a search warrant on Drayman's condominium May 17, have declined to comment on the investigation, as has the former councilman.
Drayman, who helped create the Harvest Market in 2002, maintained an active role, even after winning a City Council seat in 2007.
But the market had in recent years become a growing financial burden. Fees paid by participants — a 10% cut of revenues for farmers and a flat fee for vendors at the companion “Thieves Market” that sells jewelry, crafts and other items — covered less than half the market’s operational costs.
While records show that the market had been close to covering costs in earlier years, its recorded revenues tanked in 2008 and had remained low until recently — after Drayman was removed from a cash collection process that was described by vendors as haphazard and largely on the honor system.
At a July 2009 board meeting for the shopping park association, Drayman’s heavy involvement was noted in the minutes, in which he detailed the collection and reporting process for market revenues and income.
“The MSPA thanks John for his efforts in coordinating the Harvest Market,” the recording secretary noted.
But in April of this year, the board of directors created a “Harvest Market Oversight Committee,” and almost immediately, reported revenues spiked, prompting an email from Drayman 10 days later to a News-Press reporter in which he called it a “strange, but really terrific” event.
At about the same time, shopping park officials contacted Glendale police who, in turn, launched an investigation.
In a subsequent email, Drayman attributed the revenue spike to high gas prices keeping people closer to home, and the return of better weather.
But other nearby farmers markets that saw business ebb during the recession did not report revenue drop-offs similar to what hit Montrose.
“We have not seen a significant drop,” said Christopher Nyerges, a city contractor who runs the weekly farmers market on Brand Boulevard in downtown Glendale. “We’ve been pretty steady.”
Alyce Russell, president of the Montrose Shopping Park Assn., declined to comment on the increase in revenues beyond expressing enthusiasm about the recent turn of events.
“We’re happy that we’re making money,” she said.
Harvest Market revenue
2011 (as of June 15): $61,154
Harvest Market expenses
2011 (as of June 15): $35,456
Profit or (Loss)
2011 (as of June 15): $25,698
Source: MSPA treasurer’s reports