Editor’s Note: Since the publication of our last article on the conflict between the owners of Blondstone and the OB Farmers Market (and the related articles about the closure of Rock Paper & Scissors) there has been a groundswell of interest on the topic. Dozens of people have felt motivated or passionate enough about the subject to add their views by leaving comments. Daily visitors to the blog have reached record setting levels. And while the Rag is very happy about all this community involvement, we are concerned about the tone and nature of some remarks that have been posted. Passionate discourse we feel great about—the name calling and vitriol is, frankly, childish and counter-productive.
Flyers were passed out at the OB Farmers Market suggesting that the owners of Blondstone were seeking to have the market shut down by way of a letter writing campaign to various governmental agencies that resulted in increased scrutiny.
We met with Blondstone owner Shane Smith who asserted that his objective was never to shut down the Farmers Market. He did feel that the number of crafters at the OB Farmers Market represented unfair competition; his wish was for the market to reduce the percentage of crafters. He seemed distraught over the fact that the agency sponsoring the Farmers Market, the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association (OBMA), was (to his way of thinking) hurting storefront businesses.
This week I met with OBMA Executive Director Denny Knox, who has been associated with the organization since its inception in 1978. We had a wide-ranging discussion about many issues facing Ocean Beach that included the Farmers Market and Shane Smith’s assertion that the street vendors were bad for business.
Additionally, the “Community Crops” (i.e., the people who staff and actually run the market) have posted a response to the various allegations that are flying about that is reprinted below:
As the operators of the OB Farmers’ Market since 2000, we are grateful to be associated with a farmers’ market that has the kind of community support indicated by many of the postings in the OB Rag. As we continue to respond to the “concerns” raised by Blondestone, I just want to respond to, and clarify, a few things.
1. It is true that the market has changed over the years yet our true soul and commitment is still to the certified farmer. Depending upon the season, the market is represented by 25 to 40 farms. Certified farmers comprise 25% (winter) to 40% (spring and summer) of our vendor make-up.
2. We never recommend moving a farmers’ market, particularly one as well-established as OB. Location changes are very hard on farmers, and no market that I’m aware of has moved and regained its original level of success. Although, I appreciate the creativity and suggestion. We would love to expand the market to the next block…if people would support that idea!!
3. We work very hard to try and create balance in the representation of the vendors by providing opportunities for a variety of products to be introduced into the market. The market has grown significantly under our management, which we largely believe to be a positive indication of the success of the market. Our understanding has always been that any local OB business interested in having a booth at the OB market is welcome. This has always been our policy.
4. Based upon Blondestone’s “concerns” the OBMA created an artisan application and review committee and now requires some verification that items are handcrafted and significantly reduced the number of jewelers in the market. We will continue to follow the direction set forth by the OBMA and will try to address ALL concerns submitted to us.
5. I prepare all permit applications and work closely with all permitting authorities to obtain the necessary permits for the OB market. As one of the oldest markets in San Diego we were around before certain regulations were in place, and there were some areas where we were allowed to operate differently than new regulations may have dictated. However, we have always worked cooperatively with local officials and worked diligently to ensure that the market is being run properly and in accordance with local and state regulations.
Founded as the Ocean Beach Merchants Association in 1978, OBMA is a non-profit association consisting of 425 businesses and professionals who call OB home. (By the way, according to OBMA, over 75% of the businesses in our community are owned and operated by people who live in OB.) In 1989 the group received national and state recognition as a “Main Street” organization. Founded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the late 1970’s, the Main Street program centers on a holistic approach to renewal in distressed areas, using “4-point” approach of design, promotions, economic restructuring, and organization.
Starting with small town commercial districts, the program has grown over the years to include neighborhoods in larger urban areas like San Diego. These programs have gained international recognition for their contributions towards saving distressed and dying shopping districts around the US. Twenty seven communities in the State of California have ongoing main street programs. Locally, there are programs in North Park, Coronado, Encinitas, Oceanside and El Cajon. In addition to providing guidance for revitalization programs, designation as a Main Street program includes 10 “performance standards” that are designed to insure transparency and accountability.
Right now the OBMA is primarily concerned with finding avenues to assist local businesses that are threatened by the national economic downturn. They are seeking non-traditional avenues for small business capitalization (Banks aren’t making loans, since they’ve suffered huge losses with the collapse of the financial markets—but that’s another story.) and working directly with merchants to provide marketing and technical assistance. A forthcoming association with marketing students at San Diego State promises to provide new and diverse avenues for OBMA to provide leadership in marketing for the benefit of the community.
Much of what the OBMA actually does on a daily basis is focused on their role as management organization for the Newport Ave. Landscape Maintenance District. It’s not very sexy stuff: picking up the trash, taking care of the planters and cleaning up behind a gang of apparently very determined graffiti taggers. The group publishes a monthly newsletter, a bi-annual business directory and maintains a website that lists meeting times for all the dozen-plus volunteer committees focusing on promotions, design issues, crime prevention, etc.
My recent conversations with OBMA staff and other business people about Blondstone’s concerns all pointed towards one inescapable conclusion:
That, while not all businesses benefit directly from the weekly Farmers Market, the sentiments (and particularly the vitriolic tone) that owners Shane and Heidi have expressed include almost no support in the business community.
They (Blondstone) are certainly entitled to their opinions. And it would appear that the OBMA is making attempts to address their concerns. So, for all you pundits who chosen the OBRag’s pages to “flame” and “defame”, we have two words for you: