I've been to this farmer's market. I think the problem is that it is not near a real pedestrian area. I used to live in El Segundo and their market on Main Street is very visible because a lot of pedestrians cross that area.
> wrote: This farmers market is within walking distance of Bodger Park on Fridays.
Today is Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Originally published Saturday, January 27, 2007
Updated Saturday, January 27, 2007
Growing a Farmers Market
Lawndale's fresh food bazaar is nearly 2 years old but still working
to take root
By Shirley Hsu
Larry Sardoni lists his breads like Benjamin Buford "Bubba" Blue
famously listed varieties of shrimp in the movie "Forrest Gump."
There's shepherds bread, potato bread, egg bread, corn bread and squaw
There's garden olive, rosemary, Bavarian sour rye, nine-grain,
six-grain, multigrain and stone-ground whole wheat bread. Then there's
the savory breads, like cheddar, jalapeno and garlic, and sweeter ones
like cinnamon raisin and honey.
But on a recent chilly Friday morning at the Lawndale Farmers Market,
there were more types of bread than there were people at the market.
That morning -- following a fierce freeze that destroyed farmers'
crops and kept customers indoors -- was an anomaly, organizers said,
but they acknowledged that the market has had trouble attracting a
growing customer base since it opened in April 2005.
The flagging community interest baffles Lawndale City Councilman Larry
Rudolph, who wakes up before the birds do every Friday morning to help
set up, dragging out barriers to prevent cars from turning onto 147th
Street from Hawthorne Boulevard.
The market is the pet project of Rudolph, who believes the open-air
market, with its fresh produce grown by California farmers and hot
food and snacks, is good for the health of the community.
Rudolph said competition from discount grocery stores has hurt the
nearly 2-year-old market, which did $4,000 a week in sales during its
peak the first summer, but now does about $3,200 to $3,500 a week.
Market organizers have advertised on an electronic billboard, street
banners and fliers. Hours were changed to an earlier time slot -- 8
a.m. to 1 p.m. -- on Fridays to catch early shoppers, and the market
was moved to the more visible location of 147th Street and Hawthorne
from a spot outside City Hall.
The market also holds a weekly free raffle, giving out produce and
goodies to attract customers, but many come only for the raffle and
leave without buying anything, said Rudolph's wife, Shirley.
Mary Lou Weiss, who has consulted for and runs several South Bay
farmers markets, said it is early yet to pronounce judgment on the
young market. It typically takes three years for a market to establish
itself, and it took the one now thriving in Hermosa Beach even longer
-- about five years, she said.
"They're not setting the world on fire, but they're still there,"
Weiss said of Lawndale's bazaar.
"There are three things that make a successful market. A visible
location, and they have that. Parking is really essential, and they
have that. And of course, a good selection of farmers and vendors. And
they've had that -- they started that way, but needless to say, a lot
of vendors have dropped out because of not enough customers," Weiss said.
Weiss suggested advertising the market in Hawthorne, which has none.
If more vendors leave, fewer customers will shop at the market, in
turn causing more vendors to pack their bags. The market started out
with about 20 vendors, and now has 12 to 14 regular sellers.
Ellen Emerson, an administrative assistant in charge of the 6-year-old
Gardena Farmers Market, said competition is tough on smaller community
The Gardena market reopened in August 2005 after a five-month hiatus
due to lack of interest.
"Every city around us has a farmers market," she said. "Torrance's
Saturday market is the best around here. They have way more vendors,"
and the market attracts customers regionally, she said.
While competition is stiff on weekends, weekday markets lose working
To attract people, the city gives out coupons worth $1 for every $3 a
customer spends, Emerson said.
Val Patterson, who manages the El Segundo Farmers Market, said she has
accumulated an e-mail list of customers to give electronic updates and
reminders about the market.
"It's just like a reminder to come out, to remind them what we have,
and to get them hungry," she said.
Sales are increasing at the 8-year-old market, which has some 40
produce and crafts vendors, said Patterson, who suggested handing out
surveys to people to find out what vendors would be popular.
At the Lawndale market, vendors displayed dried fruits and nuts, hot
pupusas filled with chicken and cheese, and organic Fuji apples,
tomatoes, avocados, pomelos and grapes.
"I think people still don't know we are here," said Torrance resident
Patti Shaw, who with husband Rod is enjoying her retirement selling
"It takes time for the customers to build up. Everyone has to stick
with it and stay," said Patti Shaw, a former beauty shop owner.
Sardoni, at his bread booth, said many customers do not understand the
difference between goods at a farmers market and those found at the
grocery store. His breads, baked fresh daily, contain no
preservatives, and some varieties have no sugar, making them safe for
"It's the freshness," said Lawndale resident Bruce Rezin, who said he
has come to the market every chance he has gotten since it opened. He
likes shopping in an outdoor setting, he said as he picked up a loaf
of bread at the Old Town Baking Co. stand.
"I love a good sourdough," he said.
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