Customers and vendors at the Cottonwood Market in August 2020. The Wednesday market is returning to the downtown core. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Customers and vendors at the Cottonwood Market in August 2020. The Wednesday market is returning to the downtown core. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

More inclusivity at Nelson’s Wednesday Market could create larger event

Brick-and-mortar businesses surrounding the market can participate free of cost

by Timothy Schafer

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily

The city’s downtown market will have a new look this year.

For the first time the brick-and-mortar businesses surrounding the Wednesday Market will be allowed to participate in the event, without any cost.

The downtown core businesses can set up small displays — tables, booths or racks — outside of their businesses during the Wednesday Market at no cost in order to capitalize on the increased traffic on market days by showcasing their wares. The displays would be limited in size to the linear frontage of the business.

The opportunity will be provided to all businesses in the downtown core, thereby creating an area that is broader than the market area.

Nelson director of corporate services Sarah Winton said in previous years where the farmers’ market was located on Baker Street, vendor stalls and tents were positioned facing outwards towards the road, while customers walked down the middle of the street with vendor stalls facing in.

Three years ago vendor stalls were turned to face toward store fronts, meaning people could walk down the sidewalk and could access both vendors and stores.

“This ensured that the brick-and-mortar businesses were visible and accessible to pedestrians and not hidden by vendor stalls,” said Winton in her report to council on May 3. “It also redirected pedestrian traffic to ensure they walked alongside brick and mortar business and vendor stalls rather than just the latter.”

Winton said there was positive feedback from businesses regarding that change.

A successful farmers’ market is a market that satisfies not only the needs of vendors and its customers, but also of the brick-and-mortar businesses in the downtown core, she explained. And participation from downtown businesses could result in a more “robust” market experience for everyone.

Location approved

In April city council gave third reading to a proposal to move the Wednesday city farmers’ market to the 600 block of Baker Street and the Hall Street Plaza.

At the May 3 meeting council adopted the bylaw that permanently positioned the market — that has bounced around for years along Baker Street and even to Cottonwood Park, in the plaza — to the area specifically designed to host such events.

The market had bounced around for years, said Nelson and District Youth Centre manager Jordan Martin — the youth centre manages the market for the city — and when Hall Street was re-furbished several years ago the intent was to create a space that could host a market.

“This location had a number of clear benefits as the central location drew a significant number of residents and visitors, furthering the ultimate goal of directly connecting residents to local food producers and artists,” she said in her report to council.

The Youth Centre had conducted a ThoughtExchange soliciting the community’s input on the location of the Farmers’ Market for Wednesday market days.

The pandemic forced both the Saturday and Wednesday market locations to migrate from Baker Street to Cottonwood Falls Park, alleviating challenges that businesses and the City of Nelson were facing due to the pandemic (e.g., social distancing, space constraints, entry and exit points, COVID-19 safety planning and cleaning protocols).

“While the Cottonwood Falls Park location does provide a desirable location for the Saturday market, it has proven challenging for the Wednesday Market,” said Martin. “The Wednesday market more heavily relies on ‘mid-week traffic’ from residents who can stop in at the market as part of their workday.”

However, Cottonwood does not draw as many people on a Wednesday since it is not in the downtown core.

“The Saturday market does not appear to have this problem as people are more easily able to make the market their main destination,” Martin explained in her report.

The results indicated that the general community and key market stakeholders would prefer a more central location within or close to the downtown core for the Wednesday Farmers’ Market.

Related: Nelson’s Wednesday farmer’s market will move back to Baker Street