The Marketplace Square in the middle of the commercial area of City Center is the location of the weekly Farmers’ Market. Eva Wiggins, director of marketing for Harvey Lindsay Commercial Real Estate, established the market in 2010. “‘I was seeking to bring activity to City Center,” says Wiggins.
The market is open on Thursdays, May through September, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and features 20 to 30 rotating vendors with a wide variety of products to sell. In addition to farm produce, there are beauty products, dog treats, baked goods, dairy products and plants.
Located on a walkway between Mariners Row and Town Center Drive, the venue features a fountain, landscaping and benches. Each vendor has a tent and sets up his own display. Most attend other markets in Smithfield, Yorktown, Buckroe and Williamsburg. Clinton Allen of Allen’s Farm in Barhamsville has been coming to the market for eight years. “I like people,” he says, “and I have made friends.”
Barbara Mealey has been the market manager for nine years. Working with Sinclair Communications and five radio stations, she promotes the event. Though based in Norfolk, she arrives at the market at 6 a.m. to help vendors set up. “I make sure everyone is happy,” she says. “I try to vary the vendors. Because of space limitations, the maximum on any one day is 25. We do rotate them.”
There is no fee to participate. However, vendors must apply, have a permit and tax ID number and show proof of insurance. “Many sign up for the whole season,” says Mealey. “Others just want to check out the location. Sometimes I rotate similar vendors. I want to maintain a variety. Some vendors have enjoyed such success that they move on to a permanent business location.” Mealey sets up her computer in a nearby business, her phone nearby, making herself available if needed until the market closes.
This is the first year for several vendors. For example, King of Clubs Brewing Company from Williamsburg is seeking to make the business name and products known. It also is planning to expand its line of cold coffees, teas and kombucha, a fermented, slightly alcoholic, lightly effervescent, sweetened black or green tea drink commonly intended as a functional beverage for its supposed health benefits.
Many vendors offer free samples, including chocolate milk, jams and relishes, cookies, coffee, clam chowder and potato chips. Some vendors are not promoting products. Virginia Tech has a booth offering information on 4-H and the Master Gardeners. OneLife Fitness distributes three-day guest passes.
This is the second year for Big Daddy’s BBQ. Owner Maurice Autry says, “I always sell out.” He features barbecued ribs, chicken, pork chops, wings and brats (German sausage). An unexpected vendor is Surf Pirate Sharpening. A wide array of knives across the front of the table grabs a shopper’s attention. Tim Robinette (aka Lowtide Tim), “sharpening mate,” is happy to sharpen any knife on the spot.
Neighborhood Harvest has products that are hydroponic — grown in moving water in a greenhouse. Deanna Bloomer claims they are “beyond organic.” They offer home delivery.
FiDough Homemade Dog Treats wasn’t offering samples of her all natural doggie treats. Teresa Smith (“Head Baker”) insists that dogs do have preferences.
Boroughs Land Farm has been in New Kent since 1924 and has participated in the City Center Market for four years. It sells bison, beef, chicken, pork, seafood, veggies, eggs and butter. Linda’s Homemade Goatmilk Soap is an unexpected product at the market. And she also sells homemade pasta!
Michael Robbins (Milkman Mike) of Oberweis Dairy claims his product is “better than organic.” Offering home delivery, the daily’s slogan is “from the udder to Mother.” Chocolate milk is the best seller.
With so much variety in such a pleasant setting the Farmers’ Market should not be missed.
TO THE POINT:
City Center Farmers’ Market
Address: 701 Mariners Row, Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Eva Wiggins, director of marketing, Harvey Lindsay Commercial Real Estate