TORRINGTON – Despite hearing arguments from two downtown businesses opposed to it, the Torrington Farmer’s Market will take place every Thursday on Main Street from 4-6 p.m.
The special event request for the recurring market was approved unanimously by the Torrington City Council during its regular meeting Tuesday night – but it didn’t come without discussion.
University of Wyoming Extension Educator Caleb Carter, the organizer of the market, told the council the market’s board of directors elected to pursue holding the market on Main Street because the market’s usual location, City Park, was rendered virtually inaccessible due to the reconstruction of West C Street. On three occasions, the market will coincide with the Goshen County Economic Development Corporation’s Third Thursday events.
“It became evident, after a conversation with (Mayor Randy Adams) about the construction, and the length of the project, that location wasn’t going to work,” Carter said. “Third Thursday has already been going on, and it seemed that there was a lot of interest in having the farmer’s market move downtown and be a part of that event.”
But the move downtown wasn’t without detractors. Three local businesses declined to give their blessing for the weekly market, and two downtown business owners spoke to the TCC Tuesday night.
Cheri Steinmetz, owner of Home on the Range, said it wasn’t an easy decision to speak to the council against the farmer’s market, but she lost business because of the July 2 market and is worried that trend could continue.
“They’re closing the streets around 2 p.m.,” Steinmetz said. “Last week, when that was announced, I had a customer in my store from Scottsbluff, Neb. and she said ‘they’re announcing that I have to move my car.’ I said ‘yeah, they’re having a farmer’s market’ and she said ‘why would you do that on your Main Street?’ She left and she didn’t come back and she wasn’t very happy about that.”
Steinmetz argued the time lost due to the farmer’s market will add up to substantial revenue losses.
“If they start announcing that you need to move your car at 2 p.m., that is the result of 30 hours and a restriction of 34 parking spaces on Main Street, which is the equivalent of 3.75 business days,” she said.
“That is substantial when you do every Thursday. If they were to do it during just the Third Thursdays, great.”
Steinmetz said she also offered the farmer’s market merchants a space under the awning in front of her business, and suggested other places in town the market could take place.
“I was hoping we could find some kind of win-win situation where we could find a compromise,” she said. “I’m just not in a situation where I cannot say anything.”
But despite the opposition, Adams said he had heard a lot of support for the market.
“I would like to add that today I had conversations with four individuals, three on the phone and one in person, all in support of the Farmer’s Market” Adams said. I know of others who are supporting it also. I appreciate all of you who were willing to come up and speak at the podium.”
The council also unanimously approved a special event permit for the GCEDC’s Third Thursday events, which will be held July 16, Aug. 21 and Sept. 17. The events are to promote local businesses and drive more traffic downtown, according the GCEDC Community Development Director Sandy Hoehn.
“This is the Third Year of Third Thursdays on Main Street,” she said. We believe Goshen County’s main streets are the heart of eastern Wyoming. We host family-friendly events, shopping, great restaurants, and have a rich pioneer history.
“We have good participation and community involvement, and there are a lot of people who make this a success.”
But another business owner, Judy Edwards – owner of The Covered Wagon quilting shop, said street closures associated with Third Thursdays and other events have harmed her business more than helped it.
“I would think that closing Main Street would be the last thing the council would do,” she said. “I have been in the building for four years, I have gone through this Third Thursday, and I have to close my shop,” Edwards said. “I turn into a public restroom and I hate to say ‘no, you can’t use the restroom.’ I have children come in and ask for bags for all of the free stuff they were collecting. I haven’t had a single customer. Most of my customers are older. It’s terribly affecting my business.
“This last Thursday I had a lady who carried a sewing machine four blocks to bring it to my shop for maintenance. Those things are heavy. It’s just disruptive. I don’t see where closing Main Street helps the town. This is my life.”
Council member Bill Law said he understood Steinmetz’s and Edwards’ concerns, but maintained that events like the farmer’s market and Third Thursday are important to the town.
“There are things that establish the community as a destination, like the activities that go on,” Law said. “One of these is the farmer’s market, and the Third Thursday events – I think they’re all trying to work for the good of Torrington. They make it appetizing for people to come to town.”