Apr 15, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterThe Riverton City Council met with downtown business owners and street vendors to discuss options for a new farmers market location in Riverton.
There was a consensus during the April 8 work session that the market is a positive, entertaining activity that ought to continue. But its location on Broadway north of Main Street has posed problems for area businesses and customers as well as people attending the market.
Loss of sales and canceled freight deliveries were noted by Larry Kusel, owner of Kusel's Furniture & Appliances, 326 E. Main St. His business is located on the northwest corner of Broadway and Main Street, and the market has been staged on North Broadway from Main Street to Fremont Avenue for the past two summer seasons on Wednesday afternoons.
"I'm sympathetic to everybody wanting to be bringing things downtown," Kusel said. "Foot traffic is nice, but my business requires trucks, freight, lots of movement, and it's become dangerous on Wednesdays."
His employees depend on sales and deliveries for their income, Kusel said, and they are impacted negatively on summer Wednesdays when Broadway closes and vendors set up their booths.
He added that customers often refuse to visit his store or schedule pick-ups during the farmers market. The location of the market has had such a negative impact on business that Kusel said his best alternative would be to close on Wednesday afternoons in the summer.
He is in favor of a downtown location for the farmers market, as long as the spot allows everyone to conduct business "safely and effectively."
"I would love to have it anywhere nearby," Kusel said.
He suggested the Masonic Temple parking lot near South Broadway, adding that his personal favorite location would be City Park.
Leslie Larsen of Studio 402 Day Spa, 402 E. Main St., also said she has nothing against the market, but she said her customers have canceled appointments because of the farmers market location. Those who do arrive for appointments during market hours often have to leave to move their parked vehicles in order to make room for vendors.
"We're trying to provide a relaxing, comfortable atmosphere," she said, "And if someone has to get up in between their service and walk outside with foils in their hair to move their car, that takes away from their relaxation and their pampering."
Larsen said she has posted signs to notify customers about parking rules, but she shared stories about incidents in which law enforcement had to get involved anyway.
"I've tried to like and support (the market), but all I get, and all my customers get, is headaches and grief," Larsen said. "But I support it anywhere else downtown."
She said she also supports City Park as an option, especially during other summer events such as Day in the Park.
Matt Wright, a member of the Central Wyoming Skateboarding Association and Riverton's Trails Master Plan Committee, suggested areas at City Park that could be used for the farmers market. He agreed that having the event at the park could help revitalize the area.
"That's one of the steps to getting our City Park back to our families," Wright said.
He suggest the city install a paved parking lot at City Park that could serve as a permanent home for markets in the future.
"It makes it much more inviting for all sorts of events," he said.
Vendors often have to walk their items from their trucks to their tables, or simply sell out of their vehicles on Broadway Avenue, he said. With a cement parking lot, Wright said the vendors would be able to set up more conveniently.
Market organizer Sherry Shelley said her group has looked into the East Fremont Avenue side of City Park, including the sidewalk. But she said people in wheelchairs or with walkers could have a hard time maneuvering through the grassy areas. Electricity access from the band shell would be an advantage, she continued, but she added that the spot is less visible from Federal Boulevard.
Council member Richard Gard reminded Shelley that there are bathrooms available at the park, and having the market there would build support for both the event and the park.
"The more we come back to City Park, the better it's going to be," Gard said. "We want (the market) to flow, we want it to grow."
Shelley described the priorities her group outlined while they looked into alternatives for the market's location. Items of concern included bathrooms, wind blockage, shade, good visibility, cleanliness, electricity and wheelchair access. Shelley also revisited the idea of using a banner to help direct tourists or other visitors to the chosen location for the market.
The city owns a vacant lot just down the block at 422 E. Main St., but the parcel likely would be too small to fit the number of vendors who regularly sell at the market, Shelley said, and more space would be needed for the three musicians who have already volunteered to perform throughout the summer.
Another option was the city's parking lot behind Kusel's furniture store, but Shelley said it might be difficult to notify vehicle owners that they must vacate the lot every week before the market.
"There are just good things and bad things for every place we've looked at," she said.
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