The NEW Olde Englewood Farmers Market

October 15, 2021 at 3:26 p.m.
The NEW Olde Englewood Farmers Market
The NEW Olde Englewood Farmers Market

By Sharyn Lonsdale

On August 10th, the Englewood Farmers Market announced the Board’s decision to permanently close the popular Thursday market, distribute the funds in the community, and dissolve the organization. In a press release, the Board reported that after losing its long-time site due to construction at the Dearborn Street Plaza, and the inability to find a suitable alternate location, the Market would “cease operations.” In its ten years on Dearborn, the non-profit market donated more than $235,000 to the community and fed countless low-income citizens through its participation in the Federal SNAP program.
The Market’s success was undeniable, but so was the loss felt by the community. Hundreds of regulars shared their distress on social media and the new Rotary Club of Englewood Sunset took notice. The all-male club had been meeting for less than two months when it decided to rescue the market.
Member Keith Rowley said the Club had one week to make the decision and present a proposal to the Englewood Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) Board. Rowley said there was a precedent, as “Rotary International promotes sustainable living and fresh food initiatives all over the world and Rotary Clubs all over the country run farmers markets.”
“The Club’s goal was to keep a sense of normalcy for vendors and shoppers,” said Rowley. He volunteered his property on West Dearborn just before the construction area, and understood the challenges everyone would be facing. He set out to work with the Dearborn Street Market as the two would now be sharing the same side of the street.
If you don’t count the barricades, cones, and dug-up street, on October 7 there was a “sense of normalcy” and certainly one of relief, when the (new) Olde Englewood Farmers Market and the for-profit Dearborn Street Market reopened for business. Of course the “new normal” also included signs for social distancing and a request for masks.
There was a stray, but lighter than average, early morning crowd shopping for seafood, pasta, produce, licorice, pickles, paella, guacamole, bagels, challah, nuts, art, dog bandanas and more.
Donna Giroux, manager of the Dearborn Street Market, wasted no time in picking up an apple turnover at the C’est La Vie bakery booth. “It’s been four months,” she said. “I’m just so happy to see people out; for a first day this is pretty good,” said Giroux.
Dearborn Market founder and owner Joyce Colmar who owns Vino Loco down the street, said that while the construction did cost the market a few vendor spaces, with a little rearranging, they would be able to accommodate more vendors who plan to return later in the fall. She said a benefit to the new layout is visitors don’t have to cross the street back and forth. “I’m optimistic it will be one of our best years,” said Colmar.
Rowley arrived at 6am for the 9am grand opening of the Olde Englewood Farmers Market to help the nearly 40 vendors park, navigate the construction and set up for the first market of the season.
Surveying the crowd, Rowley said that by next month the club hoped to have the SNAP program back, and more vendors. “This is a great start and everybody’s happy,” he said.
“I haven’t slept in two days,” said Tom Stone, the operations manager of the Olde Englewood Farmers Market as he roamed the market. A long-time resident of Englewood, Stone said he was happy with the crowd and the reopening and was especially pleased that the market would remain not-for-profit.
Norm Spector and George Everett came from North Port to the market. “We missed it,” said Spector. Armed with several bags of kettle corn, Everett added, they were looking for “whatever hits us. We’re just glad it’s back.”
Market regulars Tom and Donna Catanzarite have lived in Englewood for 40 years and counted on the market for olives, plants, challah and beef jerky. “We don’t have to buy any vegetables,” said Tom, who retired as athletic director from Lemon Bay High School in 2015 and now maintains a sizable vegetable garden at home.
As they waited in line for their olives at vendor favorite, The Happy Pickle, Donna Catanzarite said “This is a very good start. I was very sad when I read that the market was closing. But this is what Englewood’s all about, picking up and moving on.”
The Olde Englewood Farmers Market and Dearborn Street Markets operate from 9am to 1pm, every Thursday from October to May. Parking is available in public lots on Green Street and throughout the area. Both the Dearborn and Olde Englewood farmers markets can be found on Facebook.