Susan Hardee Steger
Much to the chagrin of Fernandina locals, the Fernandina Farmers’ Market is beginning a new as the Amelia Farmers’ Market, at the Amelia Island Plantation Shops on the island’s south end. According to Jan Smith, Volunteer/Marketing Organizer for the seven and a half year old non-profit corporation, the market formally located on North 7th Street simply out grew its location. A grand opening announcement in “The Blog of Amelia Island Plantation,” says Smith approached the Omni Amelia Island Plantation to discuss a change in location.
When asked who made the decision to relocate, Smith says, “It was the shoppers.” Shoppers were complaining about parking and the difficulty in walking long distances with purchases. According to Smith, there were other issues with the North 7th Street location. Space was one, access to electricity was another, and bathrooms. Lisa at Jack and Diane’s on Centre Street, opened their bathrooms to market traffic and Smith was grateful for their support. Bathroom facilities at the new location are more convenient.
Those driving to the new market location were greeted by numerous security guards directing traffic to various parking areas surrounding the shops. At 11:30 a.m., parking was not a problem. Vendors, and more of them, filled the long expanse of the newly created pedestrian walk way. Most vendors are pleased with the opening day traffic, and the business it generated. Discussions with one happy shopkeeper in a popular Amelia Island Plantation shop, indicated it was clear her business was up because of the farmers’ market activity.
Jeff Bowman, from Olive Affairs says, “We miss the walkers from the historic downtown, but the locals from the south end of the island welcomed us this morning and they are pleased we are here.”
The good news is that two major events organized by Smith, will be held in Fernandina Beach. The 2013 Amelia Island Garden Show scheduled for March 2 – 3 will be held at Central Park, and the first annual Amelia Island Wine Festival scheduled for October 13, 2012 will be held in the historic downtown riverfront.
Back on North 7th Street, it was evident word of the closing did not reach some Fernandina market customers. As cars passed by, longing eyes for what once was gazed down the empty street.
As Patricia Putnam, a local resident , walked past North 7th street she expressed her “disappointment” in the market’s decision to relocate. Putnam says, “I love historic Fernandina and I have never had problems with parking.”
At Gerald’s popular vegetable and fruit stand on South 14th Street, business appeared to be robust. Asked if the closing of the Fernandina Farmers’ Market helped their business, Jessica indicated they did gain a few shoppers who mentioned they were disappointed in the market closing.
The loss of the Fernandina Farmers’ Market will be discussed at the upcoming city commission meeting on September 4. Ideas are circulating among downtown merchants and citizens who wish to fill the void left by the closing of the Fernandina Farmers’ Market. Stay tuned.
September 1, 2012 4:35 p.m.