The now private St. Clair Route 66 Farmers Market is hoping it has found a new place to operate this year.
City Administrator Rick Childers told board of aldermen members recently that organizer Paula Dace has “requested consideration” for the use of the city hall parking lot north of the gymnasium for 2014.
In that space, the vendor booths would be set up and the weekly market would operate in a similar fashion as to how it did when it was located in the grassy area near the St. Clair Health Mart Pharmacy in years past.
“There are a number of details to still be worked out, but I’d like some feedback from the board about whether this is an activity that would be allowed on city hall grounds,” Childers said.
Ward 1 Alderman Nathan Tate, who also is the St. Clair Area Chamber of Chamber board president this year, reminded those in attendance that the Chamber and the farmers market dissolved their partnership late last year.
“It’s a private organization now,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the Chamber or the city.”
However, Tate also said that he thinks the city hall location has potential to be a good thing.
City Attorney Kurt Voss mentioned insurance and requested that if the board decides to approve the request, proof of liability insurance be provided by the market.
After the discussion died down, Childers said he would proceed with the discussion with Dace and report back to the board.
No vote was taken on the request during the meeting and approval was not given.
Dace said she and the farmers market group that meets monthly agreed that the city hall parking lot was the best option. Having it there will allow restroom access.
“We’re really excited about this,” Dace told The Missourian “We think it will be a good thing for the continued success of the market.”
In 2013, the market was open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays from May through October. This year’s opening day is slated for May 3 and hours will be 8 a.m. to noon, Dace said.
After three years of being nurtured with the help of the St. Clair Chamber, late last year the Chamber’s board of directors gave Dace permission to strike out on her own and dissolve the partnership.
“The vendors now feel like they own it,” Dace said of dissolving the partnership with the Chamber. “We’re now able to do even more and make it better.”
Dace originally believed the market would operate out of the old Patton’s Nursery building at 785 N. Commercial Ave., or across Paul Parks Drive from city hall. Dace bought that building last year and has been renovating it.
However, she said she now has leased that building to Dave Hinson for a nursery, so having the market there is no longer an option. Hinson’s nursery opened last weekend.
The market had operated on the Health Mart property for three years, but that no longer is an option, either.
“We’ve been doing quite well the past couple of years and had a really good year this past year,” Dace said of the market when the partnership with the Chamber ended. “We’ve put in a lot of work to make it successful, and we want that to continue. I just think it’s time to do it on our own.”
Dace said she and the market’s vendors have brainstormed throughout the winter on how to make things better.
During the monthly market meetings this year, Dace said about 20 people have attended.
This past year, Dace said she had 23 total vendors who offered fresh produce or homemade items. The market averaged 12 to 15 vendors every Saturday.
Reviving the market in 2011 was the brainstorm of Dace, former Chamber Director Terry Triphahn and Janet Hurst of Lincoln University. Before they became involved, the event went through a few unsuccessful years of having it on Friday nights along Main Street near the gazebo.