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Steady, But Smaller Crowd at Pleasantville Farmers' Market

Stakeholders look for solutions to shoppers' dislikes at the market.

Note: This article has been updated with information from Beverly Yacovelli, owner of the Food Truck.

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As the farmers' market season winds down, a declining attendance trend is showing in Pleasantville.

While in 2010, the Pleasantville Farmers' Market Committee to more than 100 percent higher than in the preceding five years, elements like competing markets, less favorable weather and missed vendors may have contributed to the approximately 31 percent drop in shoppers so far this season.

"There are controllables and there are non-controllables," said Peter Rogovin, chair of the committee. "I can't do anything about the weather, I can't do anything about the economy."

According to Frankie Rowland, director of marketing for the Ossining-based Community Markets—which runs the Pleasantville market—the decline in attendance is not specific to Pleasantville.

"It's actually been a national trend with other farmers' markets," she said. "Most of the folks attribute it to a combination of the economy and the weather this year."

Rogovin said attendance has averaged at approximately 1,200-1,300 a week this year. In comparison, attendance peaked at about 3,100 the week prior to Halloween in 2010.

The Pleasantville Farmers' Market Committee recently released its annual survey, in which 202 respondents answered questions about everything from how much they spend to how they feel about kids' activities and music at the weekly market.

"I really think they gave us a lot of input and we need to listen because there's going to be a big market in and and all over Westchester," said Rogovin. "It would be irrational to think we know better than the customers about what they want—they will go elsewhere."

Some of the issues raised by customers can be worked out by the committee, Community Markets and the village.

"They said parking was difficult," said Rogovin.

This year, vendors were asked to park in a private lot lent to the market by a Manville Road business in order to free up space for customers.

"That's what we can do about parking," said Rogovin. "And we can also encourage people to walk."

The village also recently opened a new 50-space parking lot on Cooley Street, located directly behind the Post Office and very close—though somewhat hidden from—the Memorial Plaza market.

Once more people realize the lot is there—Rogovin said he placed information fliers on cars for a few weeks—"I think that's really going to help," he said.

Village Administrator Patti Dwyer also brought up at a recent board meeting the fact that parking enforcement "is aggressive on Saturday," and said that might be something the board could discuss down the line.

Though an initial main goal of the committee was to create a community-like feel at the market, some complained about crowding this year.

"We don't want people to feel trapped," explained Rogovin. "You want the energy, but you don't want it to be too much."

Community Markets and the committee to discuss the possibility of moving the market to the southern end of the Memorial Plaza parking lot, which they said would create more room for vendors and shoppers.

"Moving to the other end of Memorial Plaza would create more space and room for a few more vendors," said Rowland.

Another chief complaint was the absence of the food truck that created popular prepared foods last year.

According to Rowland, Community Markets attempted to set up a meeting with the owner, but never heard back.

"The conversation ended at that point," she said.

However, Beverly Yacovelli, owner of the Food Truck, said in an email to Patch that it was Community Markets who said the truck would not be invited back this season.

"When the Pleasantville Farmers Market Committee and Mayor, Peter Scherer,  heard I was not returning, being a Pleasantville resident myself,  I was approached to sit down with Community Markets and try to work it out. I was willing to come to the table but Miram Haas, was not," Yacovelli wrote. "Hence, I was unable to bring the Food Truck back to the Pleasantville Farmers Market. It had nothing to do with me not returning a phone call."

Though there may be fewer shoppers, Rowland said the market's loyal customers tend to be making larger purchases.

"Even though attendance has been down, the money that the vendors are making has not been equally down as much," she said. "People seem to be spending more at the market."

Rogovin's survey results show 37 percent of respondents spend between $25 and $50 at the market; 28.5 percent spend between $50 and $100 and 22.5 percent spend less than $25. A combined 12 percent reported spending more than $100 "during a typical visit this season."

Rowland said Community Markets plans to survey the vendors at the end of the season to get their feedback before beginning the planning stages for next year.

"It is a fairly large market," she said. "We are just trying to keep it interesting and up to date."

The survey results also indicate a general shopper approval of committee-planned activities including music, kids' activities and special events like the .

Given the overall feedback, Rogovin is optimistic about the market moving forward.

"I'm very, very hopeful with our collaboration with Community Markets and we'll see what happens," he said.

The Pleasantville Farmers' Market is from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through December 17 at Memorial Plaza. Click here to learn more about the market's offerings.

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Peter November 21, 2011 at 05:37 AM
Minor nit, but the changes in 2010 increased the previous 5 years' attendance average by over 230% - almost 3.5x!! With the decrease this year, we are still more than 100% above the 2005-2009 5 year average.

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