Park City Farmers Market faces difficulties
Ryan Summerlin August 9, 2013
Park City Farmers Market organizers expected a record number of customers and vendors this summer, but now that the summer months are winding down, that prophecy has been proven unfulfilled.
For the past two summers, the farmers market has had to endure extensive construction surrounding the Canyons Resort parking lot in which it is stationed, negatively affecting sales and customer attendance.
Volker Ritzinger, owner of Volker’s Bakery and organizer of the farmers market, attributes the low turnout and sales to the adjustments they have had to make in regards to parking because of the construction.
"It made a minor difference last year, but parking has become a little confusing this year," said Ritzinger.
The parking lot is now hemmed in by bulldozers and backhoes breaking ground for holes 13, 14 and 15 for the new golf course at Canyons Resort, according to Mike Goar, Managing Director of the ski resort. However, the entrance to the market itself is a Summit County road project. It is being turned into a roundabout to expedite traffic flow.
According to Ritzinger, the large construction machines are not only taking up space where customers are usually able to park, they are also obscuring the view of the farmers market from the road. Most customers are regulars, but some of those who have never been to the farmers market discover it as they drive by it.
Last year’s sales were down about 15 percent, and sales have dropped 20 percent this year, according to Ritzinger. This is because organic farmers whose products are personally inspected by Ritzinger are experiencing a more dramatic decrease in foot traffic at the market than in previous years.
Theron Jenson, owner of T. Jenson Farm in Salt Lake City, is one such farmer whose sales are suffering. He said that there are also fewer farmers at the market.
"This year, the vendor population has gone way down, and that’s saying something," said Jenson. "It seems to me that the traffic configuration has had a bearing on that."
Even jewelry vendors at the market have seen a decline in customers compared to other farmers markets in Utah. Jaynie McQuirk, owner of Vintage Silverware Company, participates in Park Silly Sunday Market and Pioneer Park Farmers Market in addition to the Park City Farmers Market.
"We have been here last summer and this summer, and this summer the parking lot gets so full," said McQuirk. "I see a lot of people just drive through and not stop."
Ritzinger said he did his best to attend council meetings to see what could be done to accommodate the farmers market, according to Jess Weeks, owner of Weeks Berries of Paradise.
"He went to all the County Council meetings, and they said that on Wednesdays, the parking lot was Volker’s," said Weeks.
Aside from the parking problems, strong winds in combination with all of the dirt from construction have made it hard for vendors to sample out their products. Sampling is essential for some vendors to close a sale.
Blanca Gohary of Instant Karma likes to offer samples of the hummus, curry and chutney her restaurant, Good Karma, offers, but the wind this summer has made it difficult to do so.
"The wind bothers me more than anything," said Gohary. "When it brings in all this dirt, it makes it hard to sample."
Ritzinger said, though, that he appreciated the fact that the county has installed sprinklers around the market in order to reduce the amount of dirt blown into vendors’ booths.
However, not all vendors are facing complications. Chad’s Produce booth has been just as busy as ever, and owner Chad Midgler said he has even had to tell customers to come back next week because half of his stand sold out just before 3 p.m.
Parking modifications, flying dirt and obscuring of the view of the market from the road are all problems caused by construction that Ritzinger will have to take into account when the market’s contract with Canyons is up for renewal after next summer.
Ritzinger said he may be in the market for a new location for the summer of 2015, but in the meantime, he is more concerned about this year’s progress, remaining hopeful that Park City residents and other market customers will be more tolerant of the construction.
"I just want to remind customers to be a little more patient," said Ritzinger. "All their favorite local farmers are still here at the market waiting for them."