Westmont Farmers Market a No-Go in 2019

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When longtime market coordinator Doug Kelly stepped down in January, the Haddon Township Business Improvement District didn’t name a replacement.

By Matt Skoufalos | February 26, 2019

Updated 2:15 p.m. February 27, 2019 with remarks from the Haddon Township Business Improvement District (BID). See below.

Credit: Westmont Farmers Market.

For 10 years, Haddon Township has gathered farmers, food vendors, musicians, and members of the community to its Wednesday evening farmers market.

It won’t make an eleventh.

In January, longtime market coordinator Doug Kelly, notified the township Business Improvement District (BID), which funds the market, that he’d be stepping down from his role.

On Tuesday, Kelly announced through the market Facebook page that the BID had decided to discontinue the event for the 2019 season.

Kelly said that before the 2018 season, the BID solicited requests for the market coordinator position, and he re-applied for the role. When he decided to step down this year, Kelly said he offered to help his replacement transition into the role.

“Nobody gave me any inkling that [the market]wasn’t going to continue,” he said. “It almost didn’t happen last year.”

Westmont Farmers Market Coordinator Doug Kelly at the opening of the 2018 market. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

For Kelly, the market was a labor of love, but also “the icing on the cake that showed that our town could be like other towns.”

“I don’t see the benefit of not having it,” Kelly said.

“I had hoped that it could continue, and I did offer them to help get it up and going.

“There’s other things you could take away, but not something that brings other clientele and different people,” he said.

“It gave the downtown 26 weeks of a downtown event.”

The Westmont Farmers Market was the linchpin for the subsequent community events that followed, like the Haddon Township Music Festival and Summer Solstice events that have popularized Haddon Avenue as a streetscape for community gatherings. Its vendor list was the backbone of each.

In 2016, the market was also praised by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture for its value to the community.

But for members of the BID, the market would have been an added effort to manage without Kelly. The group would like to pivot to other events instead, said Keg & Kitchen owner Kevin Meeker, who sits on the BID executive board.

From left: Ratchford, Fisher, Kelly, Bennett, Teague, at the Westmont Farmers Market. Credit: Tricia Burrough.

“We were looking to see if someone else was interested, and we really didn’t have anybody who wanted to take it over,” Meeker said.

“Doug did a great job for a number of years. He was instrumental. But we’re looking to do some other things, and this really isn’t a top priority. “

Since the market moved from its original location on Stratford Avenue to Haddon Square, attendance was down, Meeker said.

The BID is more interested in driving foot traffic to the space with weekend events, like a Maker’s Market on Sundays, brunches and breakfasts, and Thursday movie nights for families.

Although the square has been most commonly used for beer gardens and live music, Meeker said participating businesses are cutting back.

“We’ve talked about a lot of different things; it’s just a question of putting them together,” Meeker said.

“I know everyone on the board is open for things to happen there that are going to benefit the community. We want to see the kids, the families, everybody over there.”

On February 27, the BID offered the following public statement on the decision not to renew the Farmers Market for 2019. It cites dwindling attendance and the “unfair competition” presented by out-of-township businesses as significant factors in the decision to cancel the event.

Thank you to all who have inquired about the non-renewal of the Westmont Farmer’s Market for the 2019 season. The…

Posted by HT Biz on Wednesday, February 27, 2019

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