ELKHART — Rachel Wain strolled out of the new Elkhart Community Farmers’ Market Saturday with two bags of produce and a big smile.
Stacia Ford, a singer from Rochester, Mich., who was in town for the Rhapsody in Green music fest, was headed in to the market, eager to buy some fresh produce.
Both were among the many who were part of a steady stream of customers Saturday at the new market at 224 S. Main St., in downtown Elkhart.
“This is a great start,” Wain said as she waited for her mother and a neighbor to emerge from the store.
“This gives people more access even when the weather is iffy or bad,” said Wain, whose purchases included romaine lettuce and tomatoes.
Ford’s morning hit a high note when she saw the signs while driving down Main.
“I just turned in because I always go to our farmers’ market,” Ford said. “It’s hard to find decent food unless you go out of your way, so this was serendipity.”
Inside, shoppers found six venders, including two selling fresh produce.
For the past two years, the farmers’ market had been operating outdoors at Centennial Park in Elkhart, but struggled to gain a strong following because of unpredictable weather and parking, said market manager Tom Langley, who operates the market with his wife, Ginnie.
Langley was encouraged to move the operation to a downtown retail space by representatives of SoMa, the revitalization district that includes much of the downtown business district.
Last week, “The phones been ringing like crazy,” Langley said.
“We’re real pleased.” he said Saturday morning.
Venders sounded just as optimistic.
In the past 22 years, Randy Walker said he and his family have tried to sell produce in 10 different locations. He said he thinks this might be the best.
“It’s a good start. Anticipation is high,” Walker said.
Walker and his father, Warren, were selling a variety of produce including tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and watermelons.
Another stand near the front door, run by Wanda McCartney, featured locally produced fruit and vegetables, some of which come from a farm near Osceola.
“I didn’t know about it until just a few days ago and we hurried up and signed on,” McCartney said.
Dennie Ohrazda, owner of Dennie’s Delight, was selling wine jellies.
She had been selling at the Goshen farmer’s market, but chose to relocate to the Elkhart where she lives.
“It’s a great location,” Ohrazda said. “It’s close to the park and where we have festivals and where people come to socialize.”
Other vendors included a woman selling blankets designed for couches and vehicles as a way to keep furniture free of pet hair and a representative of Juice Plus+, which sells items derived from juiced vegetables and fruits.
Langley’s wife, Ginnie, was selling ready-to-mix packets of soup and cookies for Church Community Services which runs Soup of Success, a program that benefits women in need.
The Market initially opened Friday and got a boost from Mayor Dick Moore, who stopped by and suggested more signs to promote the market. Within minutes, new signs were posted, Langley said.
Tom Langley said the market may soon have a coffee bar and more venders in the near future.
He said he believes sales will pick up in coming weeks as word of the new location spreads and thinks venders will see a boost in two weeks during Elkhart Jazz Fest.
Langley said they might even try to have some live music at some point this summer.
The market will be open four days a week through the summer. Current business hours are Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Thursdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The hours could be adjusted depending on customer traffic, Langley said.