Indoor farmers market getting green light

01/18/2014 6:00 PM |

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | An indoor farmers market will start Feb. 1 inside the former Swezey’s building in downtown Riverhead.

An indoor farmers market appears headed for downtown Riverhead next month.

Ray Pickersgill, president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District, said a number of farmers have already committed to the market, which is slated to be in the former Swezey’s building on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for 16 weeks.

The Riverhead Town Board is expected to formally give its approval Wednesday. The BID Management Association gave its approval last Wednesday.

Mr. Pickersgill suggested the farmers market is a better value that Trader Joe’s, the popular health food store that some residents have been trying to attract to Riverhead.

“We have such a diversity of farmers. If you go to Trader Joe’s, you’re not going to find some of the stuff we have,” Mr. Pickersgill said in an interview. “We have a meat guy, we have an oyster guy, we have yogurt people, we have a guy who makes empanadas. We have everything covered. We actually have more vendors than we have room for.”

He said he’s hoping that if the market takes off, it can be expanded to more days or possibly year-round, since some farmers don’t have farmstands.

The target date to open is Feb. 1.

The eastern half of the Swezey’s building is owned by Riverhead Enterprises, which owns several buildings downtown, and the BID will lease the building from them for $3,000 for the 16 days. (The western, and main, half of the former Swezey’s store is owned by someone else.)

Many of the markets committed to joining in Riverhead used to participate in a farmers market in Sag Harbor, which isn’t taking place this year.

“Generally, there is an indoor winter farmers market somewhere on the End End, that ends before Memorial Day, when all of the outdoor markets open,” said Chris Kempner, who heads the town’s Community Development office.

Ms. Kempner said she spoke with Holly Browder of Browder’s Birds, a poultry farmer from Mattituck who had participated in the Sag Harbor market, and the idea came up to have one in downtown Riverhead.

“There’s considerable interest from all the vendors that participate,” Ms. Kempner said at Thursday’s Town Board work session.

She said Mr. Pickersgill suggested it be in one of the downtown buildings, and he began speaking with Riverhead Enterpise about 117 East Main, she said.

“I think it fits in with the whole East End tourism goal of promoting tourism past November,” Ms. Browder told the Town Board Thursday. “A lot of us small farmers need to make money year-round.”

She said many small farmers on the East End are committed to working year-round.

Vendors will pay a fee of either $150 for the full 16 weeks, $100 for 10 weeks or $25 per week to participate.

The Riverhead Farmers Market, as it’s being called, already has a Facebook site up, and that site had more than 440 “likes” in two days.

“We had the first meeting about this last Wednesday (Jan. 8) and it kind of took off like a freight train,” Ms. Kempner told the Town Board Thursday.

tgannon@timesreview.com