Larchmont Business owners are worried about the loss of foot traffic on the Boulevard if the Larchmont Farmers market were to move from its current location in the City Parking in the Village to an as-yet-undetermined location on Larchmont north of Beverly. Since we reported the imminent construction of a playground in the parking lot, which would reduce the Market’s space and possibly cause it to move (either permanently or at least temporarily during construction), we’ve heard from a number of business owners on the street who told us that moving the Market could hurt their business and add to an already precarious economic situation. The construction of the playground is now on hold until the location of the market can be determined, and a community meeting to discuss the plans and determine support for the playground, in light of the potential effects on the Farmers Market, is scheduled for this Saturday.
In recent years, many retailers on Larchmont have been crowded out by an increasing number of food establishments willing to pay higher rents. In 2018, the Lipson property (124-148 N. Larchmont), home to many of the street’s retail stores – including Chevalier’s Books, Landis Stationery, Landis Toys, and the Larchmont Barber Shop – was sold to Christina Development, which has not extended any of the current leases beyond December 2020. Retailers on the street have told the Buzz that they depend on foot traffic from the Farmers Market to stay in business, and they are nervous about what might happen to their businesses if the market moves to north Larchmont, either temporarily or permanently, as has been suggested since the new playground was proposed.
Louis Eafalla, owner of Village Heights, at 122 1/2 N. Larchmont has been in business for 14 years. He wrote to Councilmember Ryu expressing his opposition to a proposed playground if it would reduce the space the Market has to operate, a prospect that has compelled Raw Inspirations, the Market management company, to start looking at space on Larchmont Blvd. north of Beverly Blvd. to accommodate a larger market. Eafalla wrote:
“The Sunday Farmers Market has really grown over the years. It drives a tremendous amount of traffic to the street! Business on Sundays is great for my shop. People not only from the neighborhood but other surrounding areas come to the Village FOR the market and end up supporting all of the small businesses on the street. It would be a DEVASTATING LOSS to all of us who count on the added traffic and business that it brings in. Brick and Mortar business gets tougher every year. To even consider removing something that generates traffic and dollars to the street would be a misstep to put it mildly.”
Tina Hsiung, owner of Shopaholic Sample Sales at 234 N. Larchmont, shared with us an e-mail she sent to Ryu’s office last week, when news broke about the possible relocation of the Farmers Market:
“We heard the strangest news the other day and were encouraged to write to you. We heard that the city was considering moving the institution that is the weekly Sunday Larchmont Farmer’s Market (where to, we did not have a clear grasp of), and putting a park in its stead? Larchmont’s Farmer’s Market is a huge part of what makes that street beat. Without it, it would just not be the same. In any way. People come from near and far for that market and everyone loves it. As long-time tenants on the street, we are emailing you in the hopes that this terrible sounding idea is immediately nixed.”
Restaurateur Steve Vernetti, owner of Vernetti Restaurant at 225 N. Larchmont Blvd., told the Buzz:
“After many discussions with the on-site management of the Farmers Market, it is clear that any disruption be it temporary or otherwise could permanently impact its future on Larchmont. The possibility of losing the Farmers Market would have a very negative impact on our profitability and may jeopardize our restaurant’s future.”
Bert Deixler, Owner, Chevalier’s Books at 126 N. Larchmont, told the Buzz in an e-mail:
“As the owners of Chevalier’s Books, an 80-year-old institution in our community, we rely heavily upon the Farmer’s Market to generate foot traffic and customers to our store. The book-selling business, and ours in particular, is greatly financially challenged. We believe that moving the Farmer’s Market will significantly hurt our business on our most important day of the week. Had we been consulted before a decision was made that might imperil the Farmer’s Market or cause its relocation, we would have described the harm to our business. Nobody asked.”
Kristen Sato, owner of Flicka Children’s Clothing at 204 N. Larchmont told us:
“Yes. I think it’s very concerning. Prior to the Farmers Market, Larchmont was a ghost town on Sundays. [The] Farmers Market has made the Boulevard a very family friendly and fun environment for families and others on Sunday. I think it would be very risky to move it north and fear it would have a great impact on business. Thank you for the opportunity to have a voice.”
Marie Chan Konya, Store Manager of Lip Lab by BITE at 142 N. Larchmont, told the Buzz:
“We are disappointed to hear of the possibility that the Sunday Farmer’s Market might be moving from it’s current location. The local event has always been a helpful traffic driver to Lip Lab by BITE and we are always excited to see and welcome new guests to our business. The Farmer’s Market appeals to many from near and far and is the heartbeat and buzz of the beautiful Larchmont Village. We really hope it stays!”
Paula Carlotta, Alegria Bazaar, 128 1/2 N Larchmont Blvd shared this with the Buzz:
“I was one of the first Jewelry Designers who started in Larchmont Farmer Market. At that time, I was working at La Luna Restaurant when the Farmer Market opened around 2001. There were no businesses open on Sundays on Larchmont but after a year, most of the stores started to open because of the [pedestrian] traffic and Sunday became a great day for family and community to get together. I know some people are concerned about the opening of a Marijuana Dispensary on Larchmont (which has not yet happened) and that is one of the most important reasons [why] they want to have a playground for kids in the parking lot. But it [the playground] is not healthy because of the car traffic, the pollution and creating a space with more cement for kids. Besides we have a beautiful and safe park on Van Ness and Beverly. Moving the Farmer Market will be devastating for all the stores on Larchmont and will have a big impact on the farmers too. It is breaking one of the most beautiful traditions in the Larchmont community. Let’s think with a sense of community, small business and families. Let’s keep the farmers market in the location it is. Let’s shop our small businesses….we need each other.”
Gary Avetisyan, Topikal CBD at 143 N Larchmont Blvd sent us this message:
We all look forward to Sundays, whether it’s with our families or employees! We love getting our weekly supply of fresh produce from the market. We also set up a free lemonade stand in front of our store to sample our CBD to people in the community and surrounding communities who come for the farmers market. It is a huge benefit for all the small businesses in Larchmont who look forward to the great amount of foot traffic in the area. Losing the Market would cause a big financial burden on not only the local businesses, farmers, but also the employees who are getting extra shifts because of the Sunday rush.
“I love being right next door to the Market,” David Rhodes, owner of Rhodes School of Music at 215 N Larchmont told the Buzz:
“It was one of reasons I was excited to lease the space. The Market has been great for my business. We have even had musicians play on the balcony overlooking the market, which has gotten us attention. Having the market has been a good pairing for my business.”
While most business owners we contacted said they definitely want the Market to stay where it is, several others declined to comment on the record, for various reasons. One business owner, Nora Houndalas, Le Petit Greek Estiatorio at 127 N Larchmont supports moving the market.
“We have no problem with Farmers Market moving north of Beverly. It will expand their footprint for more vendors which will bring in more people to the boulevard in general. That is a good thing. Walking a block or two down to shops or up the the farmers market is not an imposition.”
And one, Alex Feldman of Alexander Daas eyewear at 161 N. Larchmont, e-mailed us about his mixed feelings about the Market, due to his store’s very close proximity to the venue:
“I have a tough time with this one. I can argue both sides of this with very strong points. However, if it’s just one block north, that could still be close enough for the convenience of local residents and market-goers can still wander over to the main part of the Boulevard. At the same time, it could theoretically make it more comfortable for other visitors, especially in regards to parking, bringing more business to the merchants.”
So far, as of this morning, Ryu’s community meeting to discuss the market situation is still on as scheduled, and is not among an increasing number of events we’re hearing about that have been cancelled to increase social distancing to reduce potential exposure of the COVID0-19 coronavirus. Windsor Square resident Gary Gilbert, who has emerged in the last few weeks as a champion of keeping the market in its current location, told the Buzz that he is somewhat concerned about conducting a public meeting, and he has posted a petition online, where community members can post their comments whether or not the public meeting is postponed or cancelled. We will be sure to pass along any updates we hear between now and the meeting time on Saturday.
This story was updated to include more comments from business owners.
These merchants sounds like they were not previously polled. Then how did this proposal get the support of the LBA and BID? Did they not ask the merchants before they wrote their letters of support to Ryu? This gets curiouser and curiouser!
For the record, the Larchmont Business Improvement District (BID) does not support the construction of the playground which has prompted the possible displacement of the farmers market. Heather Boylston, a spokesman for the BID gave us this statement: “The BID has been opposed to this project from the beginning. We sent a letter of opposition to the council member when this project was first proposed. We have concerns about safety, parking and the noise that a project like this would create for the businesses attached to that building. The owner of the building that this proposed project attaches to is also on record as being opposed to it.”