The weekly farmers market on University Avenue has yet to see an increase in sales since its move from Shrine Place, but with new sponsors and lower costs vendors are pleased with the overall situation.
Steep rental costs from the Shrine Auditorium led USC and the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council to become co-sponsors of the new farmers market that relocated to University Avenue at the beginning of the semester.
USC and the neighborhood council helped the farmers market navigate negotiations with the Los Angeles County Department of Recreation and Parks and obtain its permit to operate on University Avenue, a public street.
The new spot “has a great walking street and is underutilized as a community space,” said Shawn Simons, the president of the Empowerment Congress North Area Neighborhood Development Council. “We helped get through the red tape to put the market there.”
The move was largely a result of the economy. The Shrine charged the market nearly $700 a month to rent its space, but the new location costs only $250 after the market obtained a permit from Recreation and Parks.
Simons said she heard the market was struggling and didn’t want it to disappear.
“By moving the location, [we’ve] allowed it to grow and have a chance to blossom in the area,” she said. “Its last location was a tighter space; the new one is much more visible.”
Although the new location hasn’t seen an immediate increase in traffic, the space, owned by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks but maintained by the university, is expected to bring more students and customers to the market.
Helen Lee, the manager of the farmers market, said the biggest change and improvement was the shift in management.
“With USC and the neighborhood council sponsoring it [now], it kind of brings together the whole point of being here, which is to bring the whole community together with the college,” she said.
Though two of the market’s first three weeks at the new location were filled with rain, vendors said they are remaining optimistic.
“There are more cars in this location, more people know it is here,” said Leesa Choi, a Santa Monica College student who runs her mother’s produce stand.
Lee said it is still too early to tell if the market is faring better at its new location.
“Right now it’s hard to say — it’s very new,” she said. “Everything needs time.”
First time market-goer Katherine Cresto, a sophomore majoring in international relations, said she thought the new location was accessible and convenient.
“It’s a perfect break between classes and you don’t get fruit as fresh from Superior or Ralphs,” Cresto said.
A few vendors have dropped out since the market’s move, but some of the other vendors said they were happy about it because their rental fees have decreased.
“Now we can use the money that we put in for advertising, banners, things like that,” said Raul Arteaga, owner of R&L produce, one of the stands at the market.
Though students have said they enjoy the farmers market, Alicia Matsumoto, a junior majoring in communication, said she wasn’t sure about its future.
“I don’t know how many students actually stop. It seems like they mainly pass to go to class,” she said.
Lee has put up fliers before to bring more customers in, but she said money has been tighter recently. She and the market vendors are hoping customers will see the high white tents and come by out of curiosity.
Simons said she didn’t think the move would change the market too much.
“It won’t be too dramatic,” she said. “Anyone who went to it at the Shrine is still going to go to it at its new location.”
Lee said that she is concentrating on the individual vendors’ success.
“Whether they make more money or not, if [the vendors] are happier, it’s successful,” she said.