While markets and events abound throughout the Qualicum Beach summer, town council this week approved another.
The Qualicum Beach Farmers Market’s main event is Saturday mornings on Veteran’s Way and some farm vendors take part in the Downtown Business Association’s (QBDBA) street market Thursday evenings.
Farmers market organizers want to start a new, local-food-only evening market on Wednesdays as a “top-up” chance for people to buy the freshest produce. Council approved that request on a trial basis for this year.
The QBDBA told the town another market would draw their vendors and customers away.
“Unfortunately, despite an expressed desire to work together and to support each other and each other’s efforts in the community, it really comes down to two different ‘must haves,'” said Coun. Anne Skipsey, who said she likes the idea of fresh, local, healthy, organic food.
She said she sat down with both groups but found they really just wanted different things and “have different intentions,” summarizing the farmers market as a place where people get produce to take home for dinner, while “the Thursday market idea is for people to come out for the evening and be entertained.”
“It is very important that council look at the community as a whole and feedback from the community is an important feature,” said Coun. Bill Luchtmeijer. “I’ve had a number of discussions with merchants downtown and they are almost unanimously against a market on Wednesday nights.”
“There are a limited number of vendors — in a sense we’re competing for them,”
QBDBA board member Dave Wood told
The NEWS. “The idea with the (Thursday) summer market is to bring people into the downtown when the businesses are open from 6 to 9 p.m., those traditional shopping hours,” he said. “Having a market on another night could draw away much of our success, plus owning a small business is onerous enough without having to open another night.”
Wood said history shows events outside the downtown core don’t bring people in to shop, citing the Saturday morning farmers market and Christmas tree lighting on Veterans Way and the museum anniversary celebration last year as proof that people don’t venture the extra block to shop.
That contradicts results from a farmers market survey which found that 79 per cent of their customers do further shopping in town and 60 per cent spend more than $40.
“The concept of the Wednesday night market flies in the face of what council always says they do, that is to speak to the community,” Luchtmeijer said, “and the business community at large is of a concern that a Wednesday night farmer’s market will wipe out their efforts…”
“Businesses are what make our downtown special,” he said, pointing out the town funds the QBDBA “and now we’re going to do something contrary to their wishes. I find that awkward at best, disrespectful of people who pay taxes and business licences in town.”
“If they’re not willing to compromise, let’s leave things the way they are,” he said, moving the staff recommendation that asked the two groups to work it out among themselves. Luchtmeijer’s motion, the staff recommendation, failed.
Citing the importance of local food to the health and economy of the region, Coun. Barry Avis proposed a compromise that the new Wednesday market “only has vendors selling… locally-grown product that is fresh,” which Coun. Neil Horner made as a motion.
“I can’t recall when we didn’t support our local merchants and the chamber of commerce, in so many ways,” Avis said. “I don’t think it’s a question of… going against the merchants… we’re really trying to support both sides.”
Skipsey said that while farmers may not pay property taxes in town “they do call this their community, they buy their supplies here, they shop here, they frequent the businesses here.”
In its consultation with possibly-affected parties, staff said the community hall didn’t have any scheduling conflicts and while the curling club had not been reached, it hasn’t been an issue in the past.
Council voted to allow a fresh local food only market on Wednesday evenings with only Luchtmeijer voting against.