Thursday night market a positive thing
Now that Amazon.com and other Internet retailers must charge California sales tax, the price advantage they’ve enjoyed over local retailers has diminished by 7.25 percent. This will make it a little bit easier for people to support our downtown merchants.
I am a strong advocate of buying from local businesses, and I’m even willing to spend a few dollars more to get the goods I need here in Grass Valley. I consider this a small price to pay for all the extra benefits that our downtown provides.
The dollars we spend downtown help ensure that the businesses we enjoy (and the shop keepers and employees that run them) will still be here tomorrow. Spending our dollars locally strengthens the local economy. The dollars circulate and re-circulate among shops and employees instead of bleeding out to other towns or the Internet.
Buying goods and services that are locally produced has an even greater impact because dollars are not exported to non-local manufacturers and wholesalers. Examples include the products of local manufacturers, local agricultural products and local arts and crafts.
Are there other benefits? You bet! A thriving downtown helps maintain the beautiful historic buildings and the unique (non-franchise, non-chain) atmosphere. It also provides support for the special events in our downtown, like the car shows, the Christmas celebrations and the summertime Farmers Market on Thursday nights.
Recently, articles and guest editorials appeared in this newspaper that suggest some dissatisfaction with Grass Valley’s downtown farmer’s market. It was surprising to hear that shop owners expected to make significant sales during the event and alarming to learn that the business association was studying changes in an effort to make it more profitable for shop owners. This is horribly misguided.
It is probably frustrating for a shop owner to see throngs of people in the streets and none of them coming inside to shop. However, with fresh produce, musical entertainment, food booths and dancing, no shop owner should expect to make sales — there is just too much else going on! Visitors to the event are unlikely to buy a book, a frying pan or an antique when they’ve got an arm-load of carrots and peaches.
This event is a wonderful community celebration and a chance for people throughout the region to meet with growers, artisans and friends while purchasing fresh foods and crafts — all locally produced. The Farmers Market strengthens the community both socially and economically.
If the business association tries to change this event to make it more profitable for shop owners, I fear this will become the focus of the event and the measure of its success. This effort is doomed to fail. It will never succeed with so many other competing activities that are part of the event nor should it; the whole point of the Farmers Market is to focus on independent growers and other vendors who don’t have shops.
If changes are made and it still proves unprofitable to shop owners, which is the most likely outcome, there may even be a push to cancel the event entirely — or scale it back with fewer days or fewer hours. Some will argue that this is justified because the event hurts local businesses.
This misses the big picture. Each visit to these special events creates happy people and positive associations with the downtown area. These pleasant memories will encourage people to return later to buy goods and services.
Furthermore, many of the dollars spent at the Farmers Market are the best kind of stimulus to the economy. They go to local people for locally produced goods. These dollars will continue to cycle through our economy and will ultimately enrich local businesses.
Canceling the event, scaling it back or changing its focus away from food, crafts, music and fun would be a gross disservice to the community at large. I urge the business association to reconsider its decision to study changes.
Instead, please join in the celebration and feel confident that the public supports you on all the other days of the year. The downtown area is the heart of Grass Valley and a treasure that we all need to share for different purposes at different times. The true measure of the event’s success is whether it continues to have a good turnout and that people are having fun.
Brian Roseth is a city planner and artist living in Grass Valley.
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