While several Esther Short Park-area business owners said they are saddened by the demise of the indoor Vancouver Farmers Market, they aren’t concerned about the effect the closure may have on their own businesses.
After nearly two years, the indoor market has not been a big draw for midweek shoppers, and as a result, the nonprofit organization is deep in debt and closing its doors at the end of September. It has been unable to pay its rent to the city of Vancouver.
Business owners have written the failure off to poor management and are not taking it as a blow to the viability of business in downtown Vancouver.
Alanna Jones, who opened Tossed with her husband Del in February, said business at the restaurant has been “fabulous” and has increased steadily each month. The couple chose the market area because of the work that has been done toward its redevelopment.
Before choosing their sunny spot along Eighth Street just west of the indoor market, the Joneses visited the neighborhood at different times during the day throughout the week.
“It felt like a great neighborhood,” Jones said. “There were always people walking, and it’s absolutely beautiful down here. When I was younger and learning to drive, my parents always warned me of coming down by Esther Short Park. It’s amazing to see what it is now.”
Tahnee Anders, who owns Athens Day Spa, was surprised to hear the indoor market was closing, but knew precisely why.
“There wasn’t enough variety,” she said. “For an everyday market to work, people want things they need.
“We need a grocery store.”
Business isn’t likely to be impacted, but Anders said her employees are going to have to find a new place to grab lunch.
The spa opened three-and-a-half years ago, and she said the seasonal outdoor market was a huge draw. It continues to thrive, bringing thousands of people downtown each weekend.
Several of the indoor market’s food vendors want to stay, and are looking for a way to lease their spaces from the city, which in turn leases the indoor market area from the Vancouver Housing Authority.
The VHA was caught off guard by the news of the closure and is in the midst of reviewing the leasing structure and financial setup, said LaVon Holden, the VHA’s interim co-director.
“Given how it’s structured, we’re looking at what’s possible for the space,” she said. “We will try and find the right solution for the city, VHA and, of course, the community.”
Holden said the organization is quite a ways off from making any decisions about what will be done with the space.
And before any final decisions are made, she said, there will be an opportunity for community feedback.
“When we first brought the farmers market in, the goal was to have year-round access to fresh food,” Holden said. “The point was to have a place where people downtown could buy a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk.”
The need for groceries downtown has been a constant topic of conversation since the market-closure announcement, said Courtney Staehely, co-owner of Dolce Gelato.
Topping her wish list is Zupans, closely followed by Trader Joe’s.
“You need a draw,” Staehely said. “A store like that would create that kind of draw and I think it definitely would be supported.”
Jones said she firmly believes downtown Vancouver could and would support a smaller, upper-end grocery.
The surrounding neighborhoods are packed with houses – some parts with pricey condos – and people are tired of driving for their basic needs, Jones said.
Downtown Vancouver is growing, and with the type of waterfront development slated just blocks away, it will continue to do so, she said.
“I will miss having the indoor market, but the outdoor market is such a positive impact on the community and the businesses down here, and I think that will only continue,” Jones said.
“The more business down here, the better,” said Play Date owner Trisha Ianello. “We all impact each other regardless.”
Ianello said she is certain Play Date will not lose business, but stressed the importance of community support for services.
“There has to be a balance,” Ianello said. “There has to be the right offering and enough people willing to shop there. It’s one thing to say you support the market, but if you’re only going to go there when your relatives are in town or for a special occasion, it’s not going to succeed.”
Play Date has been open for two years, and Ianello said she chose the area because of the high concentration of businesses. But parking has been an issue.
“If you have to circle the block three times to run in and grab what you need, it’s not convenient anymore,” she added
Despite the disappointment of losing the year-round market, many shop owners have high hopes for the future of the space.
“At first we were very concerned for our friends who may lose their spaces,” Tossed owner Jones said. “You hate to see them uprooted and inconvenienced like this, but I know good stuff is coming and I’m looking forward to it.”