-For The Herald, published by The News Tribune-
Sumner City Council member Randy Hynek has an idea that he said would benefit the community: a farmers market.
While collaborating with council member Nancy Dumas, his idea has developed into an indoor farmers market community co-op that would occupy the vacant Sumner Red Apple Market building. The city of Sumner purchased the Red Apple in 1999, and the building has been vacant since 2006.
“That’s tax payer money that’s sitting there,” Hynek said.
After seven years of being vacant, Hynek and Dumas hope to put the building to use.
“The problem with farmers markets is that the farmers don’t have enough people to sit at every market,” Hynek said. “This prevents them from participating in other markets.”
To allow merchants to be able to participate in other markets, Hynek proposes to barcode the products. The merchants would be responsible for maintaining their stock, but would not need to be at the market.
Products sold at the market would be produced by hand or organically, Dumas said. Merchants would not be allowed to resell products they purchased somewhere else. The exception to this rule would be Main Street store owners.
Dumas hopes to “team up with merchants on Main Street” and to “revitalize downtown,” she said. Main Street vendors would be able to set up shop at the market, which would act as a second store front.
The market wouldn’t just be designed to help Main Street though. The market could offer a chance for Sumner artisans who can’t afford to rent or buy a store to make a profit from their skills. Fees to start vending would be kept low.
This market is based on a model developed by other markets around the country. Instead of looking at markets that have been successful for fifty or more years, Hynek and Dumas looked at markets that began while the economy was bad.
“In a down economy, the bulk of new businesses start,” Dumas said.
Hynek and Dumas intend for locals to supply the market as much as possible. Only when the local artisans can no longer provide all the products would they branch out to businesses outside of Sumner.
The intent is to start with a “soft opening,” Hynek said. The market would be open on the weekends at first, then as it becomes larger, it would expand to seven days a week.
At this point though, the market is an idea. In order for it to become reality, the city council needs to approve the use of the Red Apple for the market. The Red Apple lot is used for city employee parking. The building has suffered water damage, is filled with asbestos and has no fewer than two cracked supporting beams.
The building would likely cost more to repair than it is worth, John Galle, city administer, said, although no formal estimates have been made.
Three potential buyers have contacted the city with interest in the building, Galle added. They would demolish the building and redevelop the property, he said.
“We need the support of citizens to get the Red Apple,” Hynek said. “If they want the market, they need to let their elected officials know. If we can get in we can do it, but we can’t get in without the councils blessing.”
Jesse Major is a freelance reporter for the Herald.