Kingsland Farmers' Market under new management

The owner of the Kingsland Farmers' Market says he plans to make it “the best market in the city of Calgary."

Former managers recently stepped aside after financial woes

The Kingsland Farmers' Market opened permanently in 2011, after a few trial runs in 2010. The market has recently run into some financial problems, and is now under new management. (Nadia Stewart/CBC)

The owner of the Kingsland Farmers' Market says he plans on making it “the best market in the city of Calgary."

Bob McKay already owned the building that houses the market at 7711 Macleod Trail S.E., but is now the owner of the market — which has been in operation since 2010.

It had been managed by the Alberta Local Food Co., but the company ran into some financial problems, having fallen behind on the rent. A spokesperson said last year's flood also didn't help the company's financial situation, but McKay says that the problems had little to do with the disaster.

“I think they made some poor business decisions and business people do that. We've all heard about people who've lost money doing this, that and the other thing or whatever — that's not the point,” said McKay. “The point is it got to a point where they were not paying their rent that was due and I've taken it over."

McKay says Chad Thomas has now been hired to manage the market.

In an email to vendors from the Kingsland Market Vendors Association obtained by CBC News, Thomas is described as having “over 18 years experience in farmers' markets in sales, marketing and management roles. He has worked with many local producers and his knowledge of Alberta agriculture, organics and sustainable practices is going to be a huge asset to 'The Market.'"

McKay says there’s already a list of people willing to come in and open up kiosks — this despite the fact that a number of current vendors are pulling out.

"Most of the vendors that pulled out were the previous owners that were leasing the property from me. There were also some vendors that left who, honestly, didn't have a viable product or a cross-section of products," said McKay.

African vendor to leave market 

Jameela Ghann and her husband Peter Njogwe are among the departing vendors. The couple have had a booth showcasing handmade African products since February 2014.

Ghann says they learned last month that the market would soon be under new management.

“We found out that the previous company, the Alberta Local Food Co., had gone bankrupt and with their bankruptcy, all of our damage deposit was gone as well,” said Ghann.

With word of more vendors pulling out and a decline in traffic at the market, Njogwe says he asked McKay for a break on the rent.

Njogwe says McKay expressed some concern about Alora's viability — saying, “Peter, I don't think there's a demand for African art in Calgary.”

“I didn't exactly say that,” says McKay. “I said that I think that in the city of Calgary you've got a very small number of people that might be interested in your product.”

McKay says his comments were based on own his observations — as he had seen very few people stop by Alora's booth. He says his comments weren't meant to offend and he is sorry to see the couple leave Kingsland.

The focus now is on rebuilding the market's roster of vendors, he says.

“As we go forward, we're bringing in people that have products that are top quality, that are well known in the farmers' market community and we're going to continue to do that."