Beaufort Farmers Market move deemed successful after first season

emoody@beaufortgazette.comNovember 3, 2012 

Organizers and participants in the Beaufort Farmers Market say this year's move from the Freedom Mall, along Bay Street, to West Street was successful, although some changes could be in store for next year.

"I love it," said Jannie Smith, owner of Jannie's Breads. "It was a successful move because we got more locals. Before, they didn't want to pay for parking and I didn't hear any of that this year."

Wednesdays from mid-May until the end of October, the market operated on West Street, which was closed between Port Republic and Craven streets.

Unlike the Port Royal Farmers Market, which has remained at Naval Heritage Park for years, the Beaufort market has moved several times. Until four years ago, it operated out of Pigeon Point Park, moved to Freedom Mall by the Beaufort Downtown Marina for two years before heading to West Street this year.

The latest move was aimed at attracting a regular crowd of local people. It also moved the market away from the marina parking lot, which has parking kiosks, and closer to free parking options.

"Even though it was visible and right on Bay, by the time people saw it they were in their cars and on their way home," Fabian said.

Hours were extended until 7 p.m. in an attempt to attract more of the after-work crowd, but that decision will probably be reversed next season because that crowd didn't grow as much as organizers had hoped, Main Street Beaufort, USA, executive director LaNelle Fabian said.

Local customers stopped coming as often by October, so Fabian wants to start the market in mid-April and wrap it up by the end of September. She believes it will become more popular in the future.

"I think we just need the word of mouth," she said. "I think it will grow, but it will be one of those things that we have to just let it grow."

Smith said the move was "very profitable" for her, and Olivia Wright, marketing director for Otis Daise Sr. & Son Produce agreed this season was better than the past, although business fell off at the end. Live music, more vendors and fewer issues with parking drew people in.

"It was nice," she said. "I think the music brought the people, but at the end of it, it wasn't the local people who came; it was the people on the ships."

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.

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