March 06, 2013 - A downtown Oxford farmers market was green-lighted to begin in May by the village council last week.
"By and large, the DDA (Downtown Development Authority) board was in favor of this farmers market," said village President Tony Albensi.
"They had some concerns and some things they wanted to discuss. Rightfully, so. Overall, they think it's a great concept to have a farmers market downtown and I agree."
The market will run from May to mid-October and be located in downtown's northwest parking lot. It will be open on Thursdays from 2 p.m. until dusk (7 p.m.) and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"Everybody's so excited about coming home to Oxford," said Kathy Wieland, who will be organizing and operating the market with her husband Michael. "We have a passion for the project."
Council placed a number of conditions on the market and made it clear in its motion that "failure to comply will result in the market being closed down."
One of those conditions was that "non-produce vendors are allowed, however, no vendors will be allowed that are in direct competition (with) existing businesses unless approved by the local business" that sells the same type of product.
This condition was the source of much debate among council members.
"I'm not a big fan of telling (vendors) what they can and cannot sell per se," Albensi said. "Sometimes competition is what makes capitalism so great."
"I totally disagree with you in terms of the competition with the local people," said Councilman Elgin Nichols.
He argued that local merchants have made an "investment" in the community with their "brick-and-mortar" establishments.
"They are what Oxford is," Nichols said. "I don't like to see businesses that come in on a temporary basis and compete with people that are here. That's my very strong opinion."
Albensi indicated while he can appreciate Elgin's concern, "the free enterprise system is what it is."
He noted how the farmers market can actually benefit existing local merchants.
"Bringing foot traffic to the downtown, in my thinking, would help all the other businesses in town," Albensi said.
He envisions people going to the market, then walking through town, visiting various stores.
"On Concert in the Park night, that's what people do," Albensi said. "I think the foot traffic down there would help everybody, in my opinion."
Wieland told council, "We have no intention of duplicating anything that Oxford (merchants) sell."
It was noted that whenever a potential vendor wants to sell products that could possibly compete with merchandise carried by an existing Oxford business, the Wielands always check with that business first to make sure it's not a problem.
Wieland explained to council that she always tries to provide information about the local businesses and promote them to market visitors.
"We're like a mini chamber (of commerce)," she said.
Other conditions placed on the market by council include defining exactly where the vendors can set up in the northwest lot, limiting vendor parking to the lot behind the village offices and giving vendors access to the restrooms located in the municipal complex on W. Burdick St.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.