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November 9th, 2009 by Sameea Kamal
With the support of the city council and many community residents, the Temple City’s plans for a farmers market to address struggling commercial corridors are underway.
Currently, the city’s Chamber of Commerce is working with consulting firm Avant Garde, Inc. to collect information and evaluating the plan’s feasibility.
“What we want to do is just make sure that if we start something, that it doesn’t severely cost a lot of money and that everyone involved can be somewhat profitable or at least break even, including a profit margin for the Chamber of Commerce,” said Robert Paz, program director for Avant Garde.
Since April, the firm has been conducting a study not only for redevelopment in the city, but also economic development for struggling commercial areas.
“What makes it a good time (for a farmers market) is that in this economy, people are shopping for economic value and social value, and they’re looking for a good return on their value,” Paz said. “They want to know is this the best, is the healthiest (product)?”
According to Paz, a farmers market also provides a place for family and friends to eat, grocery shop for organic products or look at crafts and other goods.
“It really is a place to gather,” he said. “You have the little league fields and soccer fields in the city, but there are people without children or children who have moved on,” he said.
Paz said local merchants will be given the first opportunity to participate and will receive a discounted rate for participation.
The consulting firm held three town hall meetings in September to garner community feedback, which came back positive in regard to the farmers market.
“The idea is to generate more interest in shopping in Temple City on Las Tunas Drive, and to draw people to the community at a time where they might not come here,” said Joe Lambert, Community Development Department Manager for Temple City.
Aside from increased commercial activity and building a sense of community, the market would also fit in with the character of the city.
“Temple City has a lot of activities through the parks and recreation department, and the Camellia Festival, Harvest Festival and Halloween Festival,” he said. “Temple City has a big tradition of positive community activities and this would kind of be in keeping with that tradition.”
The farmers market, which would be held weekly, could help businesses by providing a space for them to increase their business profiles, he said.
Potential locations include areas adjacent to the commercial parts of Las Tunas Drive such as Temple City Park or closing off a smaller street such as Kauffman Avenue or Golden West Avenue, Lambert said. Another option is to strike an arrangement with the school district to use their parking lot.
According to Interim City Manager Cathy Burroughs, however, not much has changed from a feasibility study done in the early 1990s that reported a farmers market would not be practical at the time.
“I think it needs to be studied very hard,” she said. “I think the comments that were made back in the 90’s are still pertinent today.”
Burroughs said that the prospective Sunday time may not be the best time to do it, especially considering that many businesses are closed on Sundays.
“I think one of the things that might make it different now is the farmers’ markets have been around for quite a while now, they were new back then,” she said. “And the ones that are still around are very established, farmers are probably not going to leave those, so it’ll be more of a challenge.”
Burroughs said that the market would be very well received by the community, but it would be a challenge to get growers to commit.
“The study (from the 1990s) brought up certain issues and challenges … such as other communities had very successful farmers markets and they were held (on the same days), so it’s going to be difficult to compete with them,” Lambert said.
Some local business owners located on Las Tunas Drive near to the proposed locations said that while a farmers market would be good for the community, it might not increase commercial activity due to the types of stores that are in the area.
“It’s a different kind of market,” said Lynn Wang, owner of I Do Concepts, located on Las Tunas Drive.
Aside from restaurants, the businesses on Las Tunas Drive include a number of nail and beauty salons, dental offices, bridal shops and more.
“We don’t sell anything that would be at a Farmers Market,” said Nan Chow, who runs Echo Base Toys on Las Tunas Drive.
Chow said that while the market probably would not bring in more business for his shop, it might cause problems with parking.
“Most of the farmers markets I’ve been to, they close off a street,” Chow said. “But even if they do it at a park, there’s not much parking by City hall – parking is already tight as is.”
Other business owners said that while they already have a regular customer base, a farmers’ market would be useful for residents so
they do not have to go outside the city to attend one.
“I think it would be a positive thing and everyone thinks so,” Lambert said. “We’re having Avant Garde and the Chamber of Commerce get more information for more discussion. The way it’s going to work hasn’t been nailed down yet.”
The parties will return to the council at the December 1 meeting, where they will present details of the plan.
“Like most things in this economy, it’s difficult to put on,” Paz said. “People want assurances, so we’re trying to meet that.”