Friday, June 08, 2012

TOP STORY >> Sherwood Farmers Market a hit

Leader staff writer

Sherwood’s first farmers market opened Thursday evening bustling with business and making customers happy.

“It has exceeded our expectations, and I have a strong feeling it will get better,” Keep Sherwood Beautiful chairman Don Hughes said.

“The vendors said they were amazed at what’s been done. Everyone has been very supportive,” Hughes said.

The Sherwood Farmers Market is at the old bowling alley parking lot at North Hills Boulevard and County Club Road. The area is designated as city’s new market district.

The farmers market will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 30, unless it is raining. The market is managed by Keep Sherwood Beautiful. Vendor space is $10 a slot each night. To reserve a space at the market, call Keep Sherwood Beautiful at 501-835-4699.

“It turned out better than we could imagine,” said Kelly Coughlin of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Department.

On Thursday, the market had 14 vendors selling fruit, vegetables, natural skin-care products and handmade crafts. Sherwood Animal Services brought its mobile adoption center with homeless cats and dogs. The fire department had a ladder truck on display. Musicians formed two groups and had jam sessions.

“We had a huge turnout today. This is for community growth — to talk and meet people. That is what we wanted, and that’s what happened,” Coughlin said.

Coughlin said many people are working or doing other things when farmers markets are held in the morning.

“It worked out very well, absolutely awesome,” Coughlin said.

“It is a great thing for the city. I’m very optimistic about it,” Alderman Ken Keplinger said.

Alderman Toni Butler said the turnout was great and the vendors were very good.

“I loved the men and women getting together and playing guitars. Made it feel hometown, like Mayberry,” Butler said.

Butler, who was helping at the Sherwood Animal Service mobile adoption center, had some concerns about the farmers market. She is worried about pedestrians crossing the street during the congested evening rush hour traffic on County Club Road and North Hills Boulevard. She does not know where shoppers will park when more vendors attend the farmers market.

Another concern for Butler is the heat in July and August. She said the market is held during the hottest part of the day on the black pavement. There are no electrical outlets to run the animal shelter’s mobile unit’s air conditioner or water fountains. Butler said the market customers were asking about restrooms. The nearest facility is at BJ’s Plants and Produce across the street.

Theresa Kyzer, BJ’s Plants and Produce marketing director, said “We love the idea. We are partnering with the city as an anchor for the new market district. We have extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursday. We have special market day discounts and offer lots of free samples.”

Kyzer said the farmers market is a great way to draw traffic and had new customers. BJ’s Plants and Produce opened on May 1 after moving from North Little Rock. Next Thursday, chef Kristie Ison is scheduled to give cooking demonstrations from 5 to 8 p.m. in the store.

Martha Fitch of Furlow with the Friends of the Earth Farm said the first night of Sherwood farmers market was a big success. She was more than happy. Fitch sold out of her zucchini bread, okra and eggs.

Bee keeper Larry Kichler sold honey at the North Little Rock Argenta Farmers Market for four year. He credited the Sherwood City Council and the support of the city for the market.

“I’m excited to see it in Sherwood where I reside. It made it really nice to bring all the vendors together.”

Bee keeper Geneti Nemera of Sherwood was selling his honey, sharing a tent with Kichler.

“I’m so excited. I’ll be here every week. It is a good beginning for a start,” Nemera said.

Shanna Francis was selling crocheted hats and hair accessories. She sold her goods at the Little Rock Farmers Market for seven years. Francis was pleased with the turnout at the Sherwood market. She said it is different selling in the evening, but it looks really good as people are stopping by on their way home from work.

Laurie Howard, owner of Wicked Salon and Boutique in Sherwood, was selling natural hair-care and beauty products, along with handbags made from recycled materials. She said the farmers market was a way to meet people in the community and draw business to the salon.

Biff Grimes, owner of Biff’s Coffee, offered coffee samples at the farmers market.

“I think it will grow. It is something Sherwood will be proud of. It’s been needed for a long time,” Grimes said.