Nicole Read, Community Market’s manager of Community and Special Projects, is very happy with the way Rye’s operation is working out.
By Bill Lawyer
Nicole Read, Community Market’s manager of Community and Special Projects, is very happy with the way Rye’s operation is working out. They have vendors selling vegetables, fruits, meats, and a variety of artisanal products, and she feels they’ve got just the right fit for Rye.
The numbers back her up. Rye has expanded from 11 to 15 vendors. Last year’s total estimated attendance was close to 20,000; and with six more market days to go, they’ve already had more than 18,000 shoppers this year. They are averaging over 900 shoppers every Sunday and are on track to beat that record.
When asked about the competition from Rye merchants selling similar products throughout the week, Read replied, “We feel there’s plenty of room for all of us. We’re providing a wide range of products from clearly identified sources, and if that motivates stores to do the same, then it’s a win-win for Rye consumers.”
Rye’s is one of seven markets being operated in Westchester County. The parent company, which started with just one market in Ossining in 1991, now operates a total of twenty in Westchester and Rockland counties and New York City. Most of the Westchester markets are open on Saturdays. Rye’s is the only one open on Sundays.
Founded by Ossining resident Miriam Haas, Community Markets aims to bring clean, safe, wholesome, and locally produced food to urban communities. “Locally produced” means the products have to be brought to and from the market in one day. In most cases, that means travelling one to three hours each way. Some businesses have their staff drive the food to market, and then hire local people to do the selling. This not only helps the farmers and artisanal producers, but also creates jobs locally.
The company still has its headquarters in Ossining, but each market has its own local manager. Rye’s manager is Jacqueline Lepre. She notes that not all vendors come every week. The Alpacatrax knit clothing vendor, for example, comes four or five times a season.
Lepre, who has an environmental studies degree from the University of Vermont, says that most of the sales go to “regulars” who come throughout the season. And many of these, she adds, are families, for whom the shopping trip is an enjoyable and educational activity.
The “manager’s tent” offers information about the foods being sold, recipes, and the other markets around Westchester.
While most shoppers come for the fruit and vegetables, more and more come for the meat, cheese, pickles, and baked goods, too. Read says that two of the more popular vendors are Mauro and Nuccia from Tarrytown, purveyors of Italian baked goods, and Eden Farms Greenhouses from West Milford New Jersey, which sells plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
In addition to coordinating the vendors, Rye’s Community Market also reaches out to the city’s non-profit and entertainment groups to help promote their services. Recent groups at the market include the Rye YMCA, veterinarians from Miller-Clark Hospital, and Edith Read Sanctuary.
The biggest problems for community markets this year have resulted from the recent storms. They not only affected shopper turnout, but the gasoline shortages made it difficult for farmers to get their products to the market. And if they did, their trips were longer due to negotiating the various detours and road closings caused by the hurricane.
For more information about Community Market vendors and events visit www.communitymarkets.biz.