Market on move again
The Salisbury Rowan Farmer’s Market has been a downtown success story. You can measure that success in numbers — 1,000 customers and upwards of 30 vendors on its busiest days; annual economic impact of $750,000. You also could measure it by the intense interest in the relocation of the market from its current home at South Main and Bank streets.
When the market moved from its previous West Innes location, vendors and market organizers knew this site would be temporary. But temporary turned out to be nine years. Some of the children who accompanied parents or grandparents when the market opened in 2004 have graduated from high school. What was conceived as temporary has become a cherished downtown mainstay. As a result, some are understandably apprehensive about the upcoming change, which will shift the market to yet another temporary location off East Innes, behind the Convention & Visitors Bureau.
If they move it, will people still come? Undoubtedly, yes. The South Main site may have offered better visibility, but the new site is hardly hidden away, and geography is only one factor. The market has succeeded primarily because of the quality and variety of the vegetables, fruits, meats, baked goods, flowers and craft items available. People may visit one time out of curiosity, but they keep coming back because of quality goods and vendors who develop personal relationships with shoppers — and the farmer’s market has established a reputation for all of that. People will adapt to this change.
If there’s a potential pitfall, it’s that this will be, alas, another “temporary” stop en route to a permanent site, now envisioned as being a block away, on North Lee Street, in front of the Depot. As some may recall, this was the site originally proposed by Downtown Salisbury, Inc., back in 2003, before concerns about the renovation of the nearby police station and impact on parking and traffic tabled that idea.
Ideally, the market wouldn’t have to move from one temporary site to another. But with development of the 300 block of South Main for expansion of the Integro firm and a new school central office, staying put isn’t an option. The interim site can serve as a short-term solution. But temporary in this case needs to be just that — a place to land for a season or two. Local officials discussed the previous move for years before the shift to South Main, and now another decade has passed. The move to a permanent location requires preparation, planning and coordination. It shouldn’t be rushed, but for the market to continue to thrive, it needs to put down permanent roots — the sooner the better.