Clairemont's farmers’ market got two weeks’ notice on October 5 that their last day in the Clairemont Village shopping center would be October 19. They had to vacate before the new Sprouts opened on October 25.
The farmers’ market opened in January and has been popular with locals. Before this, the community didn't support other farmers’ markets in numbers big enough to make them viable.
When I asked Brian Beevers, the farmers' market operator, in January if he would be able to stay once Sprouts opened, he said it would depend on how a sit-down with Sprouts went. In January, Stacey Hansen from Kleege (owner of the shopping center) said she wasn't sure if the farmers' market would be able to stay once Sprouts opened. Hansen said they sought a farmers' market to fill the void that would be left by Keil's grocery store closing after 26 years — leaving the neighborhood without a grocery store for one year.
At the October 19 farmers' market, patrons I spoke with were concerned about where the farmers' market would land. No one I talked to said they frequented the farmers' market because there wasn't a grocery store; about half said they visited the farmers' market every week or two, the other half more sporadically: about once a month to once in a while.
A farmers' market employee seemed a bit miffed about getting kicked to the curb. He told me that a nearby church was going to take a vote on Sunday to decide if they would allow the market to set up there. According to Beevers, the three churches he approached were all a no-go.
On October 26, Beevers said they found a new home in front of Modo Yoga. He said it's about the same amount of space, but parking will be a challenge. While Modo Yoga is giving up their customer parking for vendors’ tents, it doesn't have any extra parking for farmers' market patrons.
About the boot, Beevers said, "When we first made the negotiation with Kleege, they said that they would work at trying to have a meeting with Sprouts about trying to keep the market there. Or move it in front of Rite Aid [in the same shopping center]. They were trying to work out something but when it came down to it, I don't think Sprouts was too obliged to have us there. Kleege did their due diligence to keep us around. But Sprouts had an exclusive contract with Kleege before I came around."
Until everyone knows where the new location is, Beevers will have a mascot mouse spinning a sign on the sidewalk near the old location.
Frenny Palyniak talked to me as the farmers' market was setting up on October 26. Palyniak, co-owner of Modo Yoga, learned of the market's plight on October 24. "Brian was saying if they don't find a location, vendors might have to let go of workers."
She said there is no financial agreement at this point; it's more of a sponsorship by donating four rows of parking spaces to the farmers' market every Thursday.
I checked out the farmers' market in the new location on October 26. It looked to be a bit of a tight squeeze for the vendors, but there was plenty of room to walk around (though the yoga studio seemed to have more takers than the farmers' market).
The market is open every Thursday from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m., rain or shine. Beevers said the only exception being dangerous weather.
Before the Sprouts ribbon-cutting on October 25, I talked to the new shopping-center manager, Erin Bobrowski. I asked her if it was Sprouts or the shopping center that had made the decision that the farmers' market couldn't stay. "It was already agreed upon before. We have been communicating with them every step of the way. We loved them and we're so sorry that it didn't work out." She explained that there is an exclusion in Sprouts’ lease that doesn't allow for the farmers' market to co-exist. She said she recommended Modo as a possible new location to Beevers.
After the Sprouts opening, those living nearby said they were happy to have the store in the neighborhood, though some miss Keil's and travel to San Carlos to shop at their one remaining location. Some wish it had been a Trader Joe's instead of a Sprouts — though, every time there's an empty space anywhere in Clairemont, Trader Joe's is what many residents say they want there.