June 11, 2013
By Peter Clark
Farmers market parking change frustrates, but does not stop attendees
Parking changes for this year’s farmers market have left many vexed and it is unclear how deeply they will affect the event.
Parking for the Saturday market was located next door to the Pickering Barn site at a Costco-owned lot that stretches south to another building on the retailer’s campus. For the 2013 season, Costco is constructing a parking structure that will open for city use in future years. In the meanwhile, parking has been moved farther down to the lot that borders Interstate 90.
Issaquah Communications Manager Autumn Monahan said the inconvenience is certainly noticed by the city, which hopes that marketgoers will understand that this will be ultimately useful in future years.
“When it’s done, it will be an amazing resource for our farmers market,” Monahan said. “We are looking forward to having extra capacity once the project is done.”
The city has set aside a closer strip of parking spaces within the Costco complex for handicap access and placed a barrage of signage around the area to assist visitors. Monahan also said that they have passed out flyers and created alerts through social media.
“We are very thankful that Costco has been willing to work with the city on finding an interim solution,” she said. “This is only going to impact one season of the market, and it could have affected multiple seasons.”
She said that the city has encouraged carpooling to the event and that the market offers a large purchase pickup area near the barn. Vendors have also been given designated parking to assist with their booths.
“We are offering four times the handicap parking that is needed for an event like this,” Monahan said. “We are taking a variety of steps to listen to our customers. This is an interim plan and something we can always adjust.”
The topic of parking was on many people’s lips at the market.
“It’s a bit of a hassle,” Stephanie Corell said. “They did a good job posting signs.”
“We knew about it ahead of time,” said her husband Brian Corell, holding their son up on his shoulders to give him a lift for the walk. “We don’t know if we will visit as often.”
Waiting halfway between the market and the parking lot was Judy Schwab who explained that she was waiting for her husband to come pick her up. When asked whether it was understandable for the parking to have moved she said, “No, and with a bum knee, it hurts like hell.”
Still, she said that they had no intentions of visiting less frequently.
“Oh, we’re coming every Saturday,” she said. “The draw is too big with the flowers, the food and the people-watching.”
She did lament the added difficulty the changes would bring to others.
“I feel sorry for people that have more physical problems than me,” Schwab said. “Four blocks over is too much.”
Vendors did not seem to have any difficulty parking, though they did notice differences in turnout. Slightly lower numbers, lower sales and hesitance to buy larger items due to the return walk to the car were all mentioned by longtime merchants.
Debbie Fank, of Gone to Seed, said she has definitely noticed a difference since the changes began June 1.
“People are complaining,” Fank said. “It’s a little more subdued.”
After selling her potted plants for four years in the market, she said that the parking project should have occurred at a time when it wouldn’t have affected the event.
“It’s too bad they didn’t do it in the fall,” Fank said. “Some of the vendors didn’t know about it and paid for the whole year.”
She was not the only merchant to see a difference this year.
“I’ve just kind of noticed that my sales have decreased,” Tina Ramirez, co-owner of Mama Luvs, a seller of reusable, eco-friendly snack bags, said. “Other vendors are saying that their numbers are going down as well.”
Ramirez said that she has been present for four years at the market. She understood the need for the parking structure but she said she knew of at least one vendor that pulled out of the event because of parking.
When asked if it affected her decision to return in future years, she said it didn’t.
“Oh no, never. It’s a great market,” she said. Then she said she didn’t know whether other dealers felt the same. She looked next to her booth at the bare pavement and said, “There’s an empty spot right there.”