Marketplace ranks growing

PARKERSBURG – The ranks of the Downtown Farmers’ Marketplace are growing.

Fresh produce was being offered from four stands Thursday, the most since the market opened in its new, year-round location at the Point Park Marketplace by the floodwall at 113 Ann St. And several new vendors have come aboard, offering fresh coffee, gourmet pasta, unique art and more.

Joining Kim Gant, assistant to Mayor Bob Newell and the city’s liaison with the market, in overseeing the market will be Jared Towner, who works in outreach and development for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, which is helping to manage the marketplace.

“It’s fantastic space,” said Towner, an Army veteran studying agriculture at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. “You couldn’t ask for a better spot.”

Towner will be at the market the days it’s open, Thursday through Saturday, said Jerrod Dean, a development coordinator for state Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick.

“The other times that he’s not going to be here, he’s going to be doing outreach and development,” trying to get farmers involved with the market, Dean said.

On Thursday, the Agriculture Department’s donated foods distribution warehouse in Ripley was opened to farmers so they could drop produce for the market off there.

“A lot of farmers can’t be in multiple locations,” Dean said.

Letting them take their food to the warehouse, then transporting it to the market, gives them another venue in which to sell, he said.

Ultimately, that is intended to help agriculture grow and provide new job opportunities in the state.

One of the produce vendors who recently came to the market is Cheryl’s Plants and Vegetables out of Kenna. On Thursday, Kevin Riter, son of owner Cheryl Riter, liked what he saw.

“Once this place gets well-established, this’ll be a booming Farmers Market up here,” he said.

Besides the produce- which is expected to move outside next week once a fence is erected- other recent additions include Chef Yancy’s Five-Star Grill, offering pulled pork sandwiches, barbecued ribs, grilled chicken, various salads and more, and Marietta-based Rossi Pasta.

Rossi distributor Monika Keiser said the all-natural ingredients Rossi uses makes the company and its products a nice fit at the marketplace.

“It’s still really fresh stuff like the produce, but with Rossi Pasta … putting it all together with Italian recipes,” she said.

Another recent arrival is West Virginia Foods and Things, with a variety of products grown and made in the Mountain State, based on a similar business at the Capitol Market in Charleston.

Randy’s Roasts sells fresh-roasted coffee, most less than a week old, said owner Randy Yerby. It opened at the Marketplace a week ago Saturday.

“I’ve been roasting coffee for a couple years now, and I just gave it all away,” said Yerby, who is also the pastor of the Marrtown Road Church of Christ. “This is my hobby gone wild.”

Making his debut at the market on Thursday was Vienna artist Gale Karcher, displaying and selling his three-dimensional wooden paintings.

“Today’s my first day, and I’ve done real good,” Karcher said, noting he’d sold one piece and taken orders for three more.

Opening today are Bersky’s Ice Cream and Italian Ice and Lapping the Couch, offering bikes, kayaks and paddleboards to rent and buy.

The marketplace is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Those hours will extend to 8 p.m. today with activities leading up to the Point Park Concert Series featuring Tramps Like Us, a Bruce Springsteen tribute band. Local jazz musician David Wells will perform on the deck, and beer and wine will be available from the North End Tavern and Stone Road Winery, respectively.