Construction displaced it; no alternate location found
By STEVE REILLY
ENGLEWOOD ? After a decade attracting thousands to West Dearborn Street for fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh baked bread and steaming tins of paella, the Englewood Farmers Market is no more.
Lee Perron, manager of the nonprofit since its inception, made the announcement Monday.
“It has taken many hours of discussion and difficult consideration before coming to this decision,” Perron told the Englewood Community Redevelopment Advisory Board during its meeting Monday afternoon at Lemon Bay Park.
“In many ways, this is just the time for the final chapter of a great
story,” Perron said. “Who knew that
during the last 10 years, that over 1 million people would come to historic downtown Englewood on Thursdays between October and May?”
The farmers market vendors set up their stands Thursdays, starting early on October Thurdays and fall and sticking around until crowds grew sparce in May. It’s home has been the Pioneer Plaza between West Dearborn and Green streets on the 300 block. The market attracted thousands to West Dearborn each year.
But for the upcoming season, the farmers market needed to find an alternate site while Sarasota County builds a permanent stage, band shell, sidewalks and restrooms in the plaza.
No suitable location could be found, Perron said, and the market’s board decided to end the Englewood market. The nonprofit farmers market operated under the umbrella of the Friends of Sarasota County Parks.
Its demise will not affect the Venice and North Port farmers markets, which Perron also manages.
The success of the Englewood nonprofit market led to other farmers markets to spring up Thursdays on private property along West Dearborn Street. The largest was Joyce Colmar’s Dearborn Street Market on her property across the street from the Pioneer Plaza.
Colmar could not be reached Monday for comment.
Even though he announced the end of the Englewood Farmers Market, Perron said, “We have already made plans, in addition to the $7,000 in donations we just issued in July, to donate the entire remainder of our financial assets in the amount of $9,700 and all of our tangible assets and operating materials to nonprofit entities.
“This should be completed no later than the end of September 2021,” he said.
Meanwhile, Perron will be notifying his vendors so they can find other venues to sell their wares. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Due to the construction project for the farmers market site which will begin in August, and is expected to take approximately six months to complete, the Englewood Farmers Market will cancel the Fall 2021 – Spring 2022 season. With less than two months before our projected opening, our Board of Directors has regretfully voted to dissolve the Englewood Farmers Market and cease all operations.
“Unfortunately, two alternate location options that we may have considered are no longer available to us. In addition, two other suggested options in the downtown area do not have sufficient linear footage for the vendor tents or a large enough square-footage footprint for pedestrian traffic and vendor vehicular and trailer parking. None of the alternate sites we have considered have the necessary infrastructure such as electricity, restrooms, or potable water, that are required to support our market operations and the significant seasonal attendance volume of approximately 200,000 customers. It has taken many hours of discussion and difficult consideration by the EFM Board of Directors before coming to this decision.”
“Our customers will be notified via social media, along with e-mail and voicemail. All of our Englewood community SNAP customers will be able to continue using their benefits and any remaining tokens at our Venice Farmers Market which is open on Saturday mornings year around.”
It is important to note that during the last ten years that over one million people have come to historic downtown Englewood on Thursdays between October and May… that the University of Florida’s economic impact study presented to the CRA a report that the market was a multi-million dollar enterprise benefitting the vendors and downtown merchants and that the market had become the economic engine contributing to the renaissance of the downtown business district… and that the market, as a non-profit entity under the Friends of Sarasota County Parks, has donated over $235,000 dollars back to the Helping Hand and St. David’s food banks, the Englewood Care Clinic, local parks, and funds to address food insecurity in our community through the Fresh Access Bucks/Feeding Florida SNAP program.
“I would like to publicly thank our market founders, Marie LaForge, Mike Hutchinson, Ricardo Ruggiero, and Don Musilli… and to also thank our Board Treasurer, Rose Hutchinson…. A special thank you to former Elsie Quick Library Manager, Jennifer Perry and to our Operations Staff Amy Stone, Bob Deal and Tom Stone.
But most of all we would like to thank, from the bottom of our hearts, the Englewood community. The EFM was your market. You built it, supported it, loved it and made it your own. We simply had the pleasure to operate and nurture the market’s growth on your behalf over the last decade. We are humbled…and we leave you with our most sincere attitude of gratitude.
We have already made plans, in addition to the $7,000 in donations we just issued in July, to donate the entire remainder of our financial assets in the amount of $9,700 and all of our tangible assets and operating materials to non-profit entities. This should be completed no later than the end of September, 2021.
We feel that we have completed our mission, and we are amazed that the market has exceeded even our own wildest expectations. Even during this last pandemic year of a season of winter, it has been a place of excitement, positive energy, joy and much love! And we wish for all of you, who work and play in historic downtown Englewood, our best wishes for great success in the years to come.