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Lansdale Farmers' Market Seeks Indoor Locale

The market wants to move to the Lansdale Parks and Recreation building in the colder months, but the parks committee said Wissahickon Park building would be better

Lansdale Farmers’ Market wants to find a place to hold its Saturday market year-around.

Committee head Molly Whetstone told the Lansdale Parks and Recreation Committee Wednesday that the market would love to be open every Saturday in the winter months inside the .

The Lansdale Parks and Recreation Committee had a suggestion to the Lansdale Farmers’ Market: Think of another place to go that is more readily available, such as the Wissahickon Park building.

The Lansdale Farmers’ Market will be back with a more detailed plan of where it wants to seek shelter in the colder months.

“The market is entering its fourth season and there’s been a very positive response so far,” said Whetstone. “We would like to expand the season year-round.”

Whetstone said an indoor market would let customers come out in the rain and snow.

The Lansdale Farmers’ Market currently opens each Saturday on Railroad Avenue from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. between May 19 and November 3.

Whetstone said the parks and recreation building has parking for customers and offers great visibility on the other side of town.

“People have their own patterns in their lives over there,” Whetstone said.

Whetstone suggested opening every Saturday in the building, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (really 10 a.m. to noon, with set-up and clean up).

“We want to take a proposal back to our vendors and see what we can do,” Whetstone said.

Lansdale Farmers’ Market would be limited in many things at Wissahickon Park, namely space and parking options. There is no lot that serves the building; aside from a couple spots next to it, street parking is the only choice. The building itself is 800 square feet – a one-room facility with a unisex handicap-accessible bathroom.

“We were thinking the building would be more visible for you, since it is on Main Street,” said parks and recreation chair Mary Fuller.

Caleb Torrice, owner of Tabora Farm in Hilltown, vendor at the market and new business owner in Lansdale, said the space would be an issue. The average vendor, he said,  uses a 10-by-10 space, or 100 square feet. There are about 20 vendors, he said.

“We like room to maneuver,” he said.

Fuller said the Wissahickon Park building – at the corner of East Main Street and Lakeview Drive, across from the billboard – is a great option for organizations.

“It’s something they should utilize more often,” she said. “Now, they are not familiar with the building as they are with the parks and recreation building.”

Fuller added the market might not get much drive-by traffic at the parks and recreation building.

Should they use that building, Whetstone said approaching Lansdale Catholic to use its parking lot on Saturdays is part of the farmers’ market committee’s plan.

Fuller wanted to know the committee’s expectations as far as foot traffic with its potential use of the parks and recreation building.

Torrice said the market sees about 1,200 people each week. That number drops 25 percent in the winter months, he said.

With the winter months, the number of vendors would drop too.

“There’s an air of exclusivity for vendors,” said farmers’ market member Carol Zellers of use of the parks and recreation building. “It’s more desirable from a vendor’s perspective to be there first.”

Zellers said working in the Wissahickon Park building is “like working in a shoebox.”=

Parks and recreation director Carl Saldutti had issue with the change in frequency of use of the building.

“Two months ago, we got something in writing that the market wanted to use it once a month for four months. Even at that time, the committee talked about the purpose of the (Wissahickon Park) building,” Saldutti said.

He said the committee was requesting a “pretty big block of time.”

Saldutti said rental prices are low and affordable because extra manpower isn’t put into clean up of the building after functions – the use isn’t so extreme that clean up can be done without overtime.

“We would have to charge higher fees for use of the building for one time every weekend,” Saldutti said. “We clean during the week, and then on the weekend, we would need someone to clean in preparation for Sunday rental. You are taking a large block away from general community use. That’s one concern I have: you are restricting time for available usage.”

Farmers’ Market Committee member Carol Zellers asked if other parks and recreation affairs with 30 to 50 people would be better served at the Wissahickon Park building than at the parks and recreation building.

“It certainly could,” said Saldutti. “We did retrofit it with the intent to make it available to the community.”

However, the building needs roof repairs, Saldutti said.

The thing is this: The borough wants to rent out the Wissahickon Park building and get a steady revenue stream with a two to five-year rental.

Saldutti said the borough could make, for instance, $1,500 a month by renting out the place.

Fuller added something else to the farmers’ market committee’s preliminary plan – what about conflicts with another parks and recreation events?

Torrice asked if most rentals were in the morning or afternoon. Saldutti said it varies; events can occur from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“It all depends whether the permit or request is for that event,” Saldutti said. “If cleaning is an issue, then the board has to take responsibility to make sure that is taken care of.”

Whetstone said it is understood by the vendors of the market to clean up after they are done.

“Somebody stays to the end to make sure everything is picked up,” Whetstone said.

Zellers asked if the market could be given a nonprofit rate.

“No,” said Saldutti. “We can’t make the distinction between them. We can’t charge a different fee for a nonprofit organization and another fee for a profit business.”

Since Lansdale Farmers’ Market is a fiscal agent of Manna on Main Street, it can be charged the Lansdale- based business charge of $75 for two hours, or $125 for up to four hours. It’s an additional $25 an hour after four hours.

Whetstone told the parks committee that it has been looking for elsewhere locations in Lansdale, like the old freight house at Vine and Broad streets. It is currently up for sale.

The only problem: it’s just a shell without heat or electric. Plus, it’s not American Disabilities Act-compliant.

The idea of broaching North Penn to use a school like Penndale or North Penn was discussed. Whetstone said the school district would charge quite high fees to use their facilities.

“We want something out in the open, where you can park your car there. Not having to walk through hallways,” Whetstone said.

Both sides agreed that the farmers’ market is an important part of the community.

“We may be able to attract a vendor in the winter market to take up space in the borough like Tabora Farms,” Zellers said.

Tabora Farms will soon open a satellite location at the former Lewis Paints location on West Main Street.

“Lansdale Farmers’ Market helped put the new and improved Lansdale on the map,” Fuller said.

The parks committee left the farmers’ market committee with the suggestion to contact Lansdale Catholic in the interim to get permission to use its lot.

“Also think about, in the interim, what to do with the conflict of dates,” said Fuller.

Lt6201 March 10, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Why dont they contact the people who own the empty office building off of church road. Its been empty since it was built. I am talking about the one by the railroads tracks in the back next to the hotel they built. It has amply parking and its pretty big. Where would they expect everyone to park at the parks and recreation building ?
I. B. March 10, 2012 at 03:13 PM
How exciting. With the new condo construction planned, in the boro, business for the farmer's market should grow considerably over time. so glad to have Tabora Farms in town. As a fan of the farmers market and believer in supporting local businesses, Ample Parking for the customers and enough space for the vendors to be comfortable are key. Also a location which is walkable for residents is a high priority as well! When/where is the next meeting to discuss the options? Is it open to the public?
patchifier March 11, 2012 at 09:14 PM
I think the Farmers Market should put more effort into checking out some of the institutional spaces around town, many of which might be available on a Saturday morning. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking the gyms or cafeterias at Penndale, St. Stan's, Lansdale Catholic - these have the added benefit of generally having direct access, so you don't need to wander through the school to get to the room. I would also check on the community rooms at any of the larger churches around town - there's a few right on Main St, especially at the west end of town. Vacant buildings would of course also be great, but the cost involved in getting many of them useable is probably well outside the Market's price range without some outside investment. Still, if anyone was willing to invest in turning one of these (or their lots, if the building is unsalvageable) into a larger community building/event space, they may find enough latent demand for such a space that they could recover costs.
Steven Long March 12, 2012 at 01:50 AM
There's a LOT of things *I* WANT!

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