Hilton Head Farmers Market to shut down, new one to open in Shelter Cove

File photo view of the Hilton Head Island Farmers Market at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn.
File photo view of the Hilton Head Island Farmers Market at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn. Photo provided by Ervena Faulkner

Citing a lack of support from the town, the owners of the Hilton Head Island Farmers Market are shutting down the operation.

Pamela Martin Ovens and Peter Ovens sent an email Wednesday to about 40 vendors who participate in the seasonal, Friday market at Honey Horn, announcing the closing and explaining their long, unsuccessful struggle to get signs for the event.

"It breaks my heart because we did this for our community," Martin Ovens said. "There is no money in a farmer's market, I tell you."

Martin Ovens said she has repeatedly met with town leaders during the two years she ran the market, attempting to get off-premises signs to help promote the event.

Town ordinances prohibit such signs, with a few exceptions -- none of them for commercial retail businesses like the market.

Martin Ovens' request was rejected during a town committee meeting Wednesday because the market is a limited liability corporation, not a nonprofit organization.

Allowing the signs "opens the door for other commercial entities to follow with the same request," wrote town staff.

Exceptions have been made for some marinas and RV parks because of the size of the vehicles that use the facilities and a desire to get them off the road quickly, staff wrote.

The farmers market "does not fall into this category because it is a commercial retail business, no different than any of the hundreds of other commercial retail businesses on the island," staff wrote.

A new market, run by the nonprofit Island Recreation Association, is set to open May 1 at the site of the former Mall at Shelter Cove. The mall space is being converted into an outdoor shopping center.

"With the redevelopment of the mall coming and a new park space and new people coming to that area, we thought a farmer's market would be a great part of the new development," said Frank Soule, executive director of the association, which receives 36 percent of its budget from the town.

Soule said the association sent surveys to residents and found interest in a Wednesday-morning market. It is gauging vendors' interest.

Martin Ovens said she wishes the new market well, adding it would not make sense for her to continue to operate her market with a new one starting up.

"The two markets would cannibalize each other and ultimately destroy both," she said.