After a yearlong hiatus, the Five Corners’ Farmers Market is back on the menu with a new time and location.
The weekly event will now be on Wednesdays instead of Fridays and is relocating from Railroad Avenue to the temporary municipal parking lot behind Road ResQ.
Julie Miller-Johnson, the market’s part-time manager, said the changes aim to move away from a dinner-focused atmosphere and allow more flexibility in how the market operates within its space.
The market also plans to trim its vendor list from about 28 to 20 and only plans to host small food trucks. But Miller-Johnson said the market will “cultivate an eclectic mix of vendors” and show both residents and businesses Essex Jct. is a destination for retail shopping.
The change of pace comes at an opportune time for the village, she added, given the recent influx of development plans that will bolster retail offerings around the Five Corners.
“We’re really pushing this as a way to test market this for the village,” Miller-Johnson told village trustees last week.
News of the market’s revamp comes a year after organizers postponed the beloved event to focus on drumming up new leadership for the board of directors after several vacancies went unfilled.
Miller-Johnson said a group of community members responded to her outreach efforts and shared some ideas on what a new market could look like. She contacted those same people again this fall once the market’s fate was decided.
“OK, now we’re going to bring it back,” Miller-Johnson told the group. “Who’s in?”
Six months later, a half-dozen community members now form the market’s new board. They’re helping Miller-Johnson address one of the biggest challenges: profitability of vendors, who previously struggled to turn foot traffic into sales.
They hope the new high-visibility location will attract more customers and believe the new timeframe will catch more people as they shop for the rest of the week, Miller-Johnson said, instead of competing with local restaurants for diners on Friday nights.
She did note some trials that come with the move. More foot traffic around the intersection means more street crossings, and vendors will arrive to set up around 3 p.m. during a high-traffic time. She planned to brainstorm ways to address those challenges with village staff, noting the market board is exploring ways to “create a sense of safety” there.
Miller-Johnson acknowledged that while many would prefer the market be on a grassy knoll somewhere, there aren’t too many of those lying around in the village.
“There is no doubt it’s an urban market,” she said. “If we embrace it as a community … we can make it a really fun place to be and really unique in the context of all the other markets around.”
The new market will also operate off a slightly modified application that will place a bit more responsibility on the vendors, like asking them to remove their own trash — an attempt to create a sustainable model less reliant on volunteers, Miller-Johnson said.
The new board meets every other Monday at the Excelerate Essex office building in preparation for the market’s opening day in late May.