Guess you can file this under “Be Careful What You Wish For.” After the Kingston Farmers’ Market moved a block south to give Wall Street merchants more space on Saturdays, Wall Street merchants said at a meeting Monday evening that their businesses are now suffering.
Former market board member Jessica Applestone, owner of Fleisher’s Grass-Fed and Organic Meats, said her Saturday sales have plummeted more than 50 percent from last year’s market time, much to her surprise. Gabriel Vasquez and Susan Dixon, owners of Gabriel’s Café, said the market has been siphoning potential customers down the street. Gabriel Constantine, owner of Outdated Café, griped about the confusing new traffic pattern, claiming that shoppers are unaware that the top of Wall Street is now open and walk obliviously with baby carriages in the middle of the road. Shani and Denee Francese-Smith, sisters and owners of Sissy’s Café, both said they miss the farmer’s market and would kindly like the market returned.
Dunkin’ Donuts owner Nelson Sousa said his narrow coffee store has seen an increase in foot traffic, but it has not amounted to anything more than extra uses of his bathroom. Dunkin’ Donuts, he said, has become unduly congested by farm market shoppers filing to use the restrooms and leave without purchasing anything. In fact, he added, his store becomes so dense with market shoppers waiting for the bathroom, that actual Dunkin’ Donut customers balk at the line and move on. Sousa said that his sales are down 20 percent from last year.
Applestone said the market’s lack of communication was disconcerting to her, and wished to create an open dialogue with the market board to discuss options. One idea, of course, was to return the market to its original place, between John and North Front streets. “I have lost an incredible amount of business,” she stressed.
Applestone pitched the idea of allowing the impacted businesses to participate in the market in front of their storefronts to draw customers back down the block. “A lot of us are seeing the errors [in wanting the market gone],” she admitted. Applestone also wondered about hiring entertainment to entice shoppers up further, however figured it might be too much for the board to endeavor. Constantine presented the market board with a petition containing over 20 signatures of those who would like the market site restored.
Market board Vice-President Beth Bengston, who conducted the meeting, said that last year the all-volunteer board was hearing out people’s complaints about how the former location negatively impacted their business. Bengston explained that the market relocation was overall well-received, but knew that not everyone would be happy.
Market board president and Hudson Coffee Traders owner Donna Brooks later said the move came with the city’s insistence of the farmer’s market signing a lease — something they never had to do before — and explained that the former location did not allow for a straight fire lane. Moreover, it was a challenge cramming 38 vendors in the old spot. This new market location’s configuration, Brooks said, allows for a wider and straight fire lane, unencumbered by upper Wall Street’s Pike Plan bump-outs. Brooks also pointed out that many of the storefronts on upper Wall Street also have private residences living upstairs, thus increasing the risks of fire danger.
Brooks said she has heard almost all positive and supportive comments on the new location, much to her relief. She said frequently hears enthusiastic comments appreciating street’s large trees and how the open space feels less closed-in. “With change, you never know what will come with it, but I was surprised by all the good things I keep hearing,” she said.