THE DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT Authority’s recent increase in vendors’ fees has drawn some heavy criticism.
Last year the fee was $165 for the season. This year (23 Saturdays): $360. That’s a hike of well over 100% all at once. Seems a little drastic.
Well, here’s the reasoning behind it. The DDA surveyed other farmers markets around Michigan and Wisconsin to see what they were charging for spaces.
A quick caveat: There’s no perfect apples-to-apples comparison because of varying sizes of the communities, of the markets themselves, of their income levels, etc.
But here’s some of what they found (daily costs based on the season-long fee):
Marquette (last year)….$8
Marquette (this year)…$16
And then there’s the case of Traverse City’s Farmers Market. They’ve got a complicated fee structure based on placement of the vendor’s booth, the size of it, and the number of parking spaces allotted for the vendor.
The season fee for a space on Saturday ranges from $525 to $1575. Their season is slightly longer than Marquette’s. Their season fee for both the Saturday and Wednesday market ranges from $795 to $2655.
Yikes. Someone must be making serious money down there. But keep in mind also that it’s a bigger market and a higher income area.
So, considering all this, does Marquette’s new fee, averaging about $16 per day, seem outrageous? Not really. It would have been better if they’d gradually increased the fee over the last couple of years, or gradually increased the fee over the next couple. But they didn’t.
So you’ve got to worry whether the little guys and gals–farmers and craftsmen trying to gain a foothold–will be squeezed out of the market. You hope not.
Still, it’s important to keep in mind that the DDA will still be subsidizing the market–$13,000 a year.
But it’s money well-spent. The market brings 2000 people downtown on Saturdays, along with their cash, and their shopping power at other stores. It gives us all the opportunity to buy local stuff. Fresh stuff.
Perhaps most important, though, is the intangible benefit: Saturday mornings in Marquette have become special because of the Farmers Market. It brings us all together for a few hours. Sunshine, smiles, conversation. We could use a lot more of that these days.