Market booms on opening day

Businesses grapple with street closure

Only an hour into the opening day of the Downtown Hollister Certified Farmers’ Market on May 1, a line of people waiting to purchase a baked potato at Ivan’s Baked Potatoes stretched a quarter of a block.

San Benito Street, closed off for two blocks, was overflowing with hordes of people, making it difficult to navigate from one end of the market to the other.

Market manager Corey Shaffer said the market was “booming,” even before its 3pm start time.

“It’s the community that brings it together,” she said. “This is a great time for family members and people to get together and see our local downtown.”

The market, which typically attracts 5,000 people every week, now runs Wednesdays through Sept. 25, 3-7:30pm on San Benito Street, between Fifth and Seventh streets. It features a variety of produce, prepared foods, flowers, baked goods, crafts and more, as well as live entertainment and activities for children.

Shaffer became manager of the market in January after Tammy Renz retired.

“It takes a team to make this run, and I really want to thank the people that supported me to make this a successful event,” she said.

While the market consists mostly of San Benito County vendors, businesses from Watsonville, Moss Landing, Morgan Hill, Salinas and other places take part in the weekly event. Shaffer said that despite having one less block open for the market this year, there are still the same amount of vendors participating, with 110 spots available.

“We are all closer together,” she said. “We just are cozier than in the past.”

With plans for a mixed-use residential/commercial building in limbo on the 400 block, Shaffer said the market dropped that block from its layout to avoid being in a construction site, should the project move forward.

Shaffer said she heard from many businesses downtown about how the noon closing time of San Benito Street had hurt their ability to attract customers during lunchtime.

This year, the closing time was shifted to 1pm. Also, Hollister Downtown Association members are able to put up free booths in the market, with seven taking advantage of it so far, according to Shaffer.

“It’s going to be a humongous help to all these businesses downtown here,” she said. “We had some of our brick-and-mortars saying they felt blocked and left out of the market. This gives them the opportunity to capture the people down here.”

But for Jack Barbieri, owner of the Hollister House at 500 San Benito St., the later closing time does not make a difference.

“The streets are still shut down from 1 to 9,” he said. “That’s our lunch and dinner. The city council doesn’t want to believe us downtown businesses when we tell them that it hurts our business.”

Barbieri said he’s tried to put a booth outside his business during the market in past years, but was told he could only sell food two blocks away.

“I opted not to join the HDA this year because they don’t do us any favors,” he said.

More security is needed, according to Barbieri, citing an incident of teenagers loitering in front of his restaurant and threatening employees when they were asked to leave.

Mars Hill Coffeehouse, 610 San Benito St., shuts down its business altogether at 3pm, and will continue to do so through the end of the market’s run.

“We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause the first few weeks,” reads a message posted on the coffeehouse’s Facebook page. “Many of you faithful regulars know and can appreciate this yearly routine. And we appreciate you.”

Carlos Hernandez, owner of Heavenly Bakery on 601 San Benito St., said he’s had a positive experience with the market. With a booth set up outside his business selling baked goods, Hernandez said many market attendees come back on other days to check out his business.

“We do pretty good with the farmers’ market,” he said. “We like the opportunity to engage with more customers.”

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