Royal City Farmers Market is moving on up – and out – this winter.
The group’s winter market is relocating from River Market to uptown New Westminster starting in November. To accommodate the market, Belmont Street will be closed to traffic from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of the month from November to April.
Melissa Maltais, the market’s operations manager, said the move comes after discussions with market vendors and surveys of customers to assess their wants and needs from the market.
“We really let the customers lead with this one. Our vendors spoke to us too about where they want to be and how they see themselves growing,” Maltais said. “We really want to grow our market to be a very prominent Saturday market, so we want to add more vendors and more food trucks. It’s really about what we stand for as a society and how we are able to grow moving forward.”
The Royal City Farmers Market is currently working on some final details to pave the way for the winter market on Belmont Street.
“We feel that uptown has a bigger reach at this point for getting as many people in the New West area to come and shop from the market,” Maltais told the Record. “As part of our strategic plan, we are trying to be more inclusive and get through any barriers people may have in getting to the market. We looked a lot at different areas in New West. We felt that uptown would be a place that we could reach people from all different demographics.”
The winter market will be outdoors on Belmont Street, whereas the majority of vendors were indoors at River Market.
The market is partnering with the Uptown Business Improvement Association, which will provide a large marquee tent that will accommodate 12 to 15 covered spots for vendors.
“We are really excited and interested in having this partnership with the Uptown Business Improvement Association because it’s a group we haven’t worked with before. We are going to see how that relationship works, and how we can benefit each other,” Maltais said. “We are pretty excited about the new connections we are making.”
Bart Slotman, of the Uptown Business Improvement Association, thinks it’s a fantastic idea for the market and the uptown. He said the group is keen to do what it can to facilitate the market’s move to the uptown, which could include providing tents and promoting the market on street banners in the area.
“We are working very constructively with that group to assist them where we can. We think it is very complementary to have it. It works both ways,” he said. “Obviously, Uptown offers a more central location than where they are right now. It offers tons and tons of parking. It offers closer proximity to the majority of their customers. It offers lots of room to grow.”
Slotman believes the market will benefit uptown businesses, as it will bring customers to the uptown.
“The win for the uptown is they are a major draw,” he said. “They draw customers to the market wherever they are located. If we are able to bring those people into the uptown area, perhaps there is additional business to be gained for our retailers on the street.”
Slotman believes there’s a good chance market goers will pop into other uptown retailers to get a coffee, pick up some groceries or refill a prescription while they’re in the area.
“There’s that spinoff effect. For us we are always looking for opportunities to bring additional businesses into the area, additional people into the area. Then of course it comes down to the individual retailers to make sure they have something to offer to that clientele that is now walking up and down the street,” he said. “It’s a win-win. It’s a win for the market, it’s a win for uptown.”
Maltais said it’s a difficult decision for Royal City Farmers Market to move the winter market out of its home in River Market.
“It was a very hard decision. We have been at River Market for the past four years with the winter market,” she said. “We have grown a lot, we have learned a lot and we have worked so closely with the people there. It’s been an incredibly valuable partnership with them. There are different ways we are going to work together in the future, but we won’t be having a full-on winter market there.”
Salim Hassan, marketing manager at River Market at Westminster Quay, said the market sent out a message to its tenants after confirming the market was relocating to Belmont Street.
“We’ve enjoyed a fruitful partnership with RCFM for the past four winters. It's a great example of how New West comes together, particularly showcasing local businesses and community groups working together,” he said in an email to the Record. “Both River Market and RCFM have grown vibrantly since 2011. The new location will give RCFM an opportunity to serve a wider range of customers. Both River Market and the Royal City Farmers Market will continue to work together on other initiatives like kids’ workshops, pocket markets and special events. We’re already working on a number of winter programs this winter, including a bus shuttle service connecting downtown and uptown."
Royal City Farmers Market’s summer market continues to operate in Tipperary Park every Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. until Oct. 8.