Great Ideas for your Small Business:
Open Your Store in a Farmer’s Market
Americans have loved shopping in markets since before there was America. The first farmer’s market opened in Alexandria, Virginia, in the 1750s.
Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports there are about 35,000 farmer’s markets across the country. In addition, thousands of flea markets and other ventures sell everything from junk jewelry to jam.
Opening your business in an established market setting has tremendous advantages. The rent and utilities are often more affordable than stand-alone retail space. Plus, the land- lord takes on part of the responsibility for attracting customers through signage and advertising.
You can also find safety and encouragement in numbers. You won’t feel so alone when you can wander next door and visit with your neighboring merchant.
Before you run out and rent space, here are some tips:
- Go shopping. Visit all the markets in your area. Some are open every day; others open only on the weekends. You want to make sure your merchandise fits the clientele.
- Check out the competition. Make sure your product or service fills a need in that particular market. You don’t want to be the fourth bakery in a market.
- Speak with the other vendors. Ask them how the landlord treats them and whether he or she keeps promises made to tenants.
- Check out the appearance and maintenance. Are the public areas and restrooms kept clean? Is there adequate and well-lit parking for customers? Are security guards provided by the management? How will you secure your space when the market is closed?
- Ask to see the advertising materials or brochures put out by the landlord. Be clear about the kind of advertising they pay for and whether there are any restrictions on doing your own advertising.
- Find out how you will be charged for your space. Some open-air markets charge by the running foot; other, more permanent markets tend to charge by the square foot. Make sure you understand exactly what you are paying for, including utilities. Will you need to buy liability insurance? Will you be paying a percentage of sales to the management?
- Spend some time in the market to get a feel for the ambiance. You will be spending many long hours in this place, so you want to be sure it feels right.
If you are ever in New York City, visit one of my favorites—the Chelsea Market. Built in an old Nabisco factory, it is one of the nicest markets I’ve ever wandered through. The architecture is unique and captures the feeling of the old stone factory. The stores sell everything from discount pro- duce to gourmet baked goods. There’s a florist, a fish market, and a basket store, among others. It’s located at 9th Avenue at 15th Street. Check it out.