Vendors welcomed back to downtown street fairs
Senior Staff Writer
Customers craving Lazy Dog Confectioners ice cream and Way Yum Sushi To Go will still be able to eat their favorites at downtown Grass Valley events this year.
At a meeting of the Grass Valley Downtown Association Thursday, merchant board members voted to keep things as they are this year until a written policy is formulated for vendors and store owners for events they sponsor in 2010 and beyond.
The downtown association’s mission is to promote the downtown merchants, Executive Director Howard Levine has said.
But controversy arose in recent weeks when the owners of Lazy Dog and Way Yum did not receive applications in the mail for the Thursday Night Market and understood from the association they were not welcome. They said their understanding was that some merchants did not want them competing with them.
Since then, letters to the editor and comments to The Union have mostly backed the vendors. A community furor arose to the point where one downtown association board member said, “This is a very controversial item, and political, and it’s about ice cream.”
Last week, Levine said he had not mailed the market applications to anyone, and the unwritten policy of the downtown merchants’ group was to not bring in vendors that compete with brick-and-mortar merchants. He also would not say who made the initial complaint.
Association board chairman Brad Blair, who owns Confectionately Yours candy and ice cream shop on Mill Street, said he had not asked to have Lazy Dog banned from the market as some had suggested.
Following the board’s decision to allow the two vendors to continue to participate in the Thursday evening market, however, Blair said he would not participate because he would lose customers.
Levine said the decision about the vendors was “arbitrary,” and not based on a written policy ” which he thought the association should have.
Former City Councilman Steve Enos said “downtown is a community asset,” and that he was has always supported the downtown businesses.
“It’s an issue of equity,” Enos said, noting that up to 10 different vendors sell flowers at the Thursday markets and that Foothill Flowers owner Marie Johnson had never complained.
“If I can’t get Lazy Dog ice cream, my money will no longer be spent on Main and Mill streets,” Enos said. “You need us, and we need you.”
“We need to be real here. Who is the downtown market for?” said Way Yum Sushi owner Laura Thorne. “Some stores close and are not even participating (in events). I have people who come for one reason: To get my sushi.”
“You’re not hurting us. It’s the people who come to buy the (ice cream) bars who will be hurt,” said Lazy Dog owner Debbie Peterson.
Finding little time to write a policy for the markets which begin June 4, the board heeded former Mayor Mark Johnson’s suggestion to keep things as they are for this year and to work on a formal written policy for the future.
The only board member voting against the action was Sue Amick of Foothill Mercantile. Voting for it were Blair, Doug Becker of Becker’s Insurance, Anita Daniels of Citizens Bank, Norm Dolittle of Swenson’s Outdoors, John Johnson of Jordanwood, Mark Hereford of Heart and Home and Kelly Morrow of Aimee Taylor Handicrafted. Board member Mike Nudelman was absent.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4237.
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