The Devon Community Market has been canceled for this summer. The official reason is that construction of the Devon streetscape prevents access to the parking lot the Market has called home since its inception. The short-sighted thinking reflected in that reasoning is the primary reason for the Market’s failure.
It also reflects a lack of imagination. Far be it from the organizers to consider moving the market to another location, or changing its name, or responding to the community by changing the farmer-vendor ratio. Put simply, I think the organizers wanted it gone as much as the residents did.
No public announcement was made that the Market would not continue; I confirmed it once I noticed that the Market did not appear in any listings of the Ciy’s summer market offerings. The City’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) always included independent markets in its listings. In one of the first of its ongoing disastrous decisions, organizers of the Devon Community Market separated it from DCASE during its first summer, thereby refusing the expertise and support the City would have gladly provided to make the market successful.
It was clear from the first Market that the concept and execution were wrong. The Market lacked support from the merchants it was supposed to showcase and from neighborhood residents, who wanted a true farmers’ market but were ignored. Even when the Market go off to a good start, as it did the last two years, it failed to capture residents’ interest. Vendors drifted away because they couldn’t make any money. Market managers attempted to attract attention with solid entertainment offerings, but the name, location, and reputation of the Market doomed all efforts at improvement.
It is now too late to line up vendors for a 2016 summer market in West Ridge. While it’s possible to create a successful farmers’ market for 2017, I think that it, too, is doomed unless it is developed and guided by a representative cross-section of West Ridge residents–a true grassroots operation.
I’m advised that a market requires about a year of planning. If the community wants a 2017 farmers’ market in West Ridge, the time to start working on it is now.