Next month’s sales may be the final ones for the Wendell Farmer’s Market.
Faced with the loss of grant funding, increased competition and no extra money or manpower to operate it, the Wendell Chamber of Commerce has said it does not plan to operate the market again next year.
Town commissioners heard that sobering news Monday night when Town Manager Teresa Piner explained the chamber’s decision.
“As of right now, no other group has stepped up and said they would run the market,” Piner said.
Competition has grown since Wendell established its market in 2008. At that time, the closest local markets were in Wake Forest and Raleigh. Now there are markets in Archer Lodge, Clayton, Rolesville and Knightdale. There are also plans to operate a market beginning next year in Zebulon.
A grant in 2012 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided money to pay a part-time market manager and purchase equipment that would allow customers to spend public assistance money on items at the market. Still, the market struggled to attract crowds. As that grant expires, chamber officials have not found other grant funds to replace that money, and revenue from vendor fees are not enough to cover costs.
In 2013, the market moved from its original location across from J. Ashley Wall Towne Square to a move visible location on Wendell Boulevard. Still the market didn’t see a stronger customer base develop and it didn’t see significant growth among the vendors who sold their goods at the market.
Town commissioners seemed disappointed by the news, but they stopped short of offering to take over management of the market.
“It doesn’t seem like this has been an economic driver that they hoped it would. I do not see spending any of our financial resources to support this,” Mayor Tim Hinnant said.
Commissioner Ginna Gray, who serves as the town board’s liaison to the chamber, said chamber officials had alerted vendors to the possible closing, but none of them stepped up to take on the role of managing the market either.
“It was a good idea. The chamber did it’s best. But it turned out, this just wasn’t a good fit for us,” Gray said.
The market is scheduled to close for the year following sales on Oct. 25.