County could require subtracting arts vendors, adding more food
By STEVE REILLY – STAFF WRITER
ENGLEWOOD — Sarasota County is seeking a new balance for Englewood’s farmers markets.
County commissioners will consider changing a county ordinance that will limit the number of arts and crafts, jewelry, health and health services, and other non-food vendors to only 25 percent of the total number of vendors. The discussion is set for Nov. 6.
If the ordinance is changed, 75 percent of the remaining vendors must sell vegetables, honey and cheeses, spices, coffees or any other food product, including artisan and prepared foods. The county ordinance now allows a 50-50 split to the products sold at farmers markets.
Farmers markets are held along West Dearborn Street on Thursdays from October to May.
The nonprofit Englewood Farmer’s Market was the first in Englewood, opening eight years ago at the Pioneer Plaza on the 300 block of West Dearborn. Joyce Colmar opened her for-profit Dearborn Street Market across the street. Since then other smaller markets have been sprouting up along and around West Dearborn.
Englewood’s Community Redevelopment Agency staff has been meeting with market managers in an ongoing discussion to devise a reasonable formula and methodology for determining enforcement. The call for the modification of the farmers markets, CRA manager Debbie Marks said, came from various brickand- mortar Dearborn merchants who felt that the arts and other non-produce vendors undermined their businesses last year.
To define the ratio of vendors at the markets, the managers and CRA discussed Tuesday how a 10-by-10-foot space could equate to one unit of vendor’s space.
“I have vendors who are paying for five booths,” Colmar said.
Will that affect the ratio of food to non-food vendors?
And how will county code enforcement determine who is or isn’t in compliance, Englewood Farmer’s Market manager Lee Perron asked.
“It’s a math thing.
Zeros and ones. Either it is or isn’t (in compliance),” Perron said.
Marks suggested a county official could visit a particular market and determine whether the market is meeting the guidelines at the outset of the season. Reporting any subsequent changes would be the responsibility of the managers, she said.
“We need to support our locals first and foremost,” DonnaMarie Lee said.
Lee manages a small farmers market Thursdays, but she also is co-owner of Bobarino’s Pizzeria on Magnolia Avenue at West Dearborn.
“We need to focus on our town first, community first,” she said.
“Then we can bring in the extras.”
SUN PHOTOS BY STEVE REILLY
By STEVE REILLY – STAFF WRITER
ENGLEWOOD — Autumn Glick was impressed with “the magnitude of the various vendors” at the farmer’s markets on West Dearborn Street Thursday.
“And it’s a nice crowd,” said Glick, who served coffee for the Cape Coralbased coffee roaster Jimmy’s Java which travels to various farmer’s markets. Thursday was Jimmy Java’s first day in Englewood, the largest and most diverse of the farmer’s markets they’ve attended.
Expect Jimmy Java to be back next Thursday, Glick said.
The nonprofit Englewood Farmer’s Market Manager Lee Perron suspected Thursday morning the market’s opening day may have been its biggest. He was right. More than 3,200 people strolled through the market Thursday, a record for an opening day, he said.
The nonprofit market was the first in Englewood and opened eight years ago at the Pioneer Plaza on the 300 block of West Dearborn. Since then, it led to other similar markets to spring up around it, including Joyce Colmar’s for-profit Dearborn Street Market across the street from the nonprofit market.
Prior to the opening day for the farmer’s market, which is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday, Perron said he heard “a buzz around town” looking forward to its reopening. The market is also filled to capacity with 58 vendors — and that doesn’t count the numerous vendors at Colmar’s or the other smaller markets.
Chef Ef Martinez, who owned several restaurants in New York City before moving to Venice, prepared paella at the farmer’s market and sold “Cordon Oro, all-purpose seasoning.” It’s his third year at the market. Like Perron, Martinez thought the market saw a goodsized opening crowd Thursday.
Les Bernstein, a Olde Englewood Village Association board member, said the farmer’s markets attracted a “good crowd.” He also noticed new vendors selling their wares on Dearborn Thursday.
Bernstein owns the brick-and-mortar Rehab on Dearborn, vintage and collectibles shop just west of the farmer’s market. He could not say whether all the merchants benefit from the farmer’s markets, but he did know the markets bring additional foot traffic up and down West Dearborn.
photos by Steve Reilly