Indoor Vancouver Farmers Market claims fresh, local headquarters

Now in its indoor location, the Market adds year-round, seven-day-a-week service

"Coming soon" signs and workers putting finishing touches on the building can still be seen throughout the space, but vendors of the Vancouver Farmers Market have taken a huge step forward by selling their wares indoors and on weekdays.

"It’s great being able to have my products available seven days a week," said Leeanne Goetz, owner of Honey Creek Farms. "It’s like having a storefront appearance without the investment of a store."

The indoor market opened its doors for the first time on Sept. 17, complementing the outdoor market open on Saturdays and Sundays April through October.

Market Executive Director Aaron Flies said the anticipation of the opening of the indoor market drew 15,000 to 18,000 visitors on Saturday and 10,000 to 12,000 on Sunday, which represented "the biggest Sunday in the history of the market," said Flies.

"The response has been great, especially from those that live downtown," said Melissa Layman, who co-owns River Maiden Artisan Coffee and Goods with her brother Jesse Layman. As a jeweler, Layman has sold her goods at the outdoor market for four years, and jumped at the opportunity to become a part of the indoor market.

"it seemed like a great thing to do," she said. "With everything going on downtown and around the park, there is no other place like it in Vancouver."

The opening of the indoor market presents the first opportunity for a number of market vendors to operate year-round, seven-days-a-week.

The 8,400-square-foot indoor market on the ground floor of the five-story Esther Short Commons building includes hot-food vendors open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and produce and craft vendors are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The space features indoor and outdoor seating, and garage-style doors can be opened on a portion of the market during warm weather.

Flies expects the indoor market to be running at full capacity by Nov. 1 at the latest. He said there will be 17 to 20 permanent vendors operating in spaces ranging in size from 100 square feet to 360 square feet. Lease rates are between $700 and $2,100.

Considering the existing customer base and mutually shared infrastructure and dining areas, the spaces represent a good value to vendors, said Flies. Food vendors were responsible for providing some of their own equipment and improvements.

Flies said there was an overflow of food vendors seeking space in the indoor market, and tenants were chosen based on providing a balanced offering to customers.

The co-op portion of the market includes about 25 artisans, but that number is growing as more space is found to squeeze them in. Co-op vendors pay $40 per linear foot and 15 percent of sales each month. Outdoor market vendors typically pay $25 to $30 per day for a 100-square-foot plot.

Flies expects the market to continue to evolve through its push for even more local and fresher offerings. He expects Clark County’s growing base of artists and businesses to continue to displace Portland-based goods.

Goetz, who is selling her Honey Creek Farms honey-based products from a small corner of the indoor co-op section, said the market provides a great place to increase retail sales and grow awareness of her Brush Prairie-based business. She began selling her items at the market this May and is working to expand sales online and at retailers such as Wild Oats.

"It’s a great concept. If people are patient and stick with us we will have an awesome indoor market."

And as the only place to pick up items such as fresh meat, bread, milk and produce, the market hopes downtown residents become regulars.

"We want to be the headquarters for fresh, local products," said Fries.