Hundreds shop at farmers’ market

PARKERSBURG – The first spring weekend of the new Downtown Farmers’ Marketplace ended Saturday with a steady stream of customers despite cloudy skies and intermittent rain.

The market’s new location at the Point Park Marketplace at 113 Ann St. may have been a factor in helping keep customer flow up by offering an indoor venue for vendors and customers, Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell said.

“We’ve had a couple of hundred people here,” he said Saturday afternoon. “They like it, they like being indoors. Had it been at Bicentennial Park on a rainy day, we would get nobody. That’s always been the problem with the weather.”

For the past several years, the farmers’ market was held under a tent at Bicentennial Park, near the Wood County Courthouse and the Parkersburg Municipal Building. Following some special activities during the winter season, the market opened for its first spring at the Ann Street location Thursday through Saturday to a positive response from those looking for products and those offering them.

With this weekend’s opening, the Downtown Farmers’ Market is now open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday year-round.

While the market was open Thursday and Friday, the official grand opening occurred Saturday, although it was low-key with no ribbon cutting or speeches. To mark the opening – and the holiday weekend – there were free flowers for the first 100 mothers through the door in honor of Mother’s Day and there were also crafts for children to make Mother’s Day cards.

Parkersburg resident Angie Iafrate was among the people visiting the market in its new location Saturday. She has been a customer of the Downtown Farmers’ Market for some time and liked the new location.

“I think it’s nice to have a dedicated space like this, an indoor space. It looks like they have a lot of great plans for it,” Iafrate said, adding she plans to return on a regular basis.

“I’m looking forward to the fresh produce. I like buying local when possible, supporting local farmers.”

As he mixed up a new batch of kettle popcorn on Saturday, Mark Mahoney, with All American Kettle Corn Co., said this is the first year the company is participating in the farmers’ market, although it does set up two days a week in downtown Parkersburg. The company also participates in local festivals and fairs.

“So far, it’s bringing some people in, it looks to be growing,” he said of the new marketplace location on Ann Street. “I think it will be good.”

Sitting as the new location does next to the entrance to Point Park, Mahoney said it will help draw people from the businesses in downtown Parkersburg and will also be a draw for people visiting Point Park and Blennerhassett Island, especially on the weekends.

Kenna resident Bill Shanklin, who along with his wife Debbie, operate Debbie’s Corner said he saw a steady stream of customers looking at their perennial and annual flowers and other plants during the first weekend.

Shanklin thought the marketplace was new and unique, away from much of the city traffic but close and easy to reach. He also liked the mixture of indoor and outdoor space that is available at the location.

Busy was steady all three days for the first weekend, and Shanklin expects it to grow for their business and for the market in general as more vendors come in and when fresh produce – always a large draw at any farmers’ market – starts becoming available in late May and early June.

While no fresh vegetables were available Saturday, Lubeck resident Gene Hoschar said his fresh eggs were very popular with visitors Saturday. On his first visit to the market as a vendor, he brought 22 dozen eggs and had sold out in the first three hours Saturday. He planned to return in the future with more eggs to sell and expected interest to remain strong in the market.

“I’ve got more than we can use and I know half of these people anyway,” he said of the other vendors.

Kim Gant, assistant to Newell and the city of Parkersburg’s liaison with the market, said more work remains at the Ann Street location, including a new deck and re-installing the market tent, which has been removed from Bicentennial Plaza and will be set up at the marketplace as the new site for outdoor vendors.