The Old Town La Verne Farmers Market — known as La Verne Fresh — has grown stale and will close on Dec. 30, 2017.
The death knell was sounded at the Dec. 18, 2017 La Verne City Council meeting, when the council voted 4-0 to direct city staff to send a letter of non-renewal to Xela Aid for the Farmers, which operated the market in conjunction with the City. Mayor Don Kendrick had to recuse himself from the vote because he owns a downtown business.
On Dec. 4,, the Old Town La Verne Business Improvement District Board had voted to recommend that the City issue a letter of non-renewal, based on the market’s subpar performance over the last three years.
Had the City not voted, the contract would have automatically renewed for another three years. The Old Town La Verne District Board and Xela Aid each contributed $3,000 for the start-up of the market, which served customers from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
After early interest from the public, business waned despite social media and other advertising and marketing initiatives (consumer surveys, greeters’ boards along Foothill Blvd.) to promote the market. Initially, the market boasted fresh produce, in the spirit of a true farmers market, but as foot traffic and sales declined, craft vendors were invited to participate.
Over the last six months, however, the market continued to lose money, and with the contract up for renewal, the City responded by voting not to extend the contract another three years.
As part of the non-renewal agreement, the City of La Verne cannot host any other farmers market for a full year, extending into early 2019.
From the discussion that followed, no one was able to pinpoint what exactly caused the demise of the market. Mayor Pro Tem Tim Hepburn, who said he frequently attended the market, surmised that the opening of Sprouts on the corner of Foothill and Wheeler might have hastened the closure.
At the meeting, there was no public comment or outcry over the news. Perhaps, that silence was the biggest indicator that La Verne didn’t support the market — at least in the numbers that would have justified its continuation.
“I’m sad to see it go,” Hepburn said.