Originally created 06/18/04

Downtown sites lead to confusion



When Main Street Augusta created its Saturday farmers market last year to attract more traffic downtown, little did it know that it would be taking customers away from another downtown market.

The State Farmers' Market, located on Fifth Street and operated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, has been selling produce to the public since 1942, but the advertising and media coverage of the Saturday market led to confusion about the status of the state market.

"There were several people driving by asking me about the downtown market and thinking this one was closed," said Albert Allen, who has been selling his squash, tomatoes and watermelons at the state market for the past three decades. He is one of about eight regular vendors there.

Tim Reece, senior market manager at the state market, said people have been calling to ask whether the state market had closed since the opening of Main Street's market.

"We've even had local farmers who thought we closed," he said.

As a result of the misunderstanding, Mr. Reece said, fewer customers have been coming to the state market. Crowds are down to about 2,000 people a week from about 2,500.

Chris Naylor, the executive director of Main Street Augusta, said there was no intention to draw business from the state market.

"We felt that it might help that market, because if people couldn't find something here, they would head to the state market to look," he said.

Mr. Naylor said Main Street and its volunteers did not go to the state market to ask those vendors to come to its Saturday market, but rather tried to get a variety of businesses.

"Of the about 30 vendors, there are about seven produce vendors, but we have a lot more than just produce," he said. "We have one vendor who sells baked goods and bread, people who sell plants, arts and crafts, hot sauces, and even a cheese vendor."

Mr. Naylor said Main Street Augusta does not promote the state market, but he hopes the individual vendors would send customers there if they cannot find what they are looking for at the Saturday market.

Adding to the confusion, Georgia lawmakers considered moving the state market to another location two years ago. Mr. Reece said he thought some people may have assumed the Saturday market was just a new location for the state market.

Mr. Reece said the state does not plan to move the facility anytime soon.

Reach Josh Brown at (706) 724-0851.