By Katherine Grant
One thing all downtown businesses seem to agree on is the Grimsby Farmers Market is a great event.
After that, opinions diverge considerably regarding traffic issues, sightlines to businesses on the south side of Main Street and access to their doors.
Of paramount concern to business owners is a decided drop in foot traffic during the hours of the market. Whether it be Harmony Jewellers, Home Hardware or Village Studio, all say traffic in their stores is negligible after the street is closed.
While services seem to see little or no impact, Service Ontario does get reduced traffic and on a day they are mandated to be open in the evening.
“We’ve embraced the market in every way possible, including extending our business hours to match those of the market.” said Kevin Luttjehuizen of Harmony Jewellers in a press release.
“But week after week, when I look outside my store window, all I can see is the cargo van of the vendor in front of my store. The tents and vehicles completely obstruct access to the south sidewalk and consequently my business suffers. With significant investments made to my business in the last few years, its frustrating to lose a business day every week to poor market management.”
Some business owners are disgruntled because, they say, their concerns are not new.
Bryan Macaulay of Vilage Studio said he raised the issue three years ago.
“I love the idea of the market, but it needs to work for the merchants as well. Right now, all market vendors set up on the south side of Main Street. Not only does this block businesses from sight, it also eliminates foot traffic from the market and access from the road, and that doesn’t work for us,” Macaulay said.
Market manager Michelle Seaborn said she spoke to Grimsby Fire Department several years ago when the market was invited to relocate to Main Street and she was told it needed to stay on the south side.
Macaulay said he addressed the issue this week with Grimsby fire officials and confirmed there would be no issue using the north side as long as the proximity to fire hydrants was adhered to.
As for sightlines with the existing set-up, Seaborn noted many points at which accesses were added or widened.
The market first set up behind St. Georges Ukrainian Church with 20 vendors. It quickly outgrew that spot and moved to Main Street in 2010.
Since that time it has flourished and become one of the most popular farmers markets in Ontario.
“The issue is not and never was about the market being on Main Street. However, there is no reason altering the set-up could not be beneficial for all. We would would just like to meet with the market steering committee and make a plan,” Macaulay said.