Night Market operator calls out St. John's Farmers Market over expansion plans

Is St. John's city big enough for two Thursday night markets?

'You shouldn't copy me,' posts Aryn Ballett on Instagram as Farmers' Market considers Thursday nights

Aryn Ballett operates the Night Market and owns mobile clothing boutique Scout. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

When Aryn Ballett opened the latest edition of the Overcast, she didn't like what she read.

In an article about the St. John's Farmers' Market, the market's operators hint at plans to expand its programming, and open on more days of the week.

"We're kicking around the idea of a food-focused evening market on Thursdays or Fridays," said board chair Josh Smee in the article.

It's the "Thursdays" part that got Ballett's attention; Ballett operates the Night Market, a food and craft market that started this summer and ran successfully through the fall — and takes place primarily on Thursday nights.

The Night Market operated successfully through the summer and fall of 2018, primarily on Thursday nights. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

"I was pretty shocked that they would consider overlapping when we really have the same demographic of people and a crossover of vendors," said Ballett. "I'm already booked to do every Thursday from June to August with my Night Market."

A survey posted on the Farmers' Market Facebook page also references the possibility of expanding into Thursday nights, among other expansion options.

Ballett says the St. John's area just isn't big enough for two markets to share a day of the week. And she thinks the competition wouldn't be fair.

'You shouldn't copy me'

"I do think they should consider what else is happening and who else is working in community public markets," she said. "They've received a lot of municipal  funding, and I think that does give them a social responsibility."

On Tuesday, Ballett called out the Farmers' Market on Instagram.

"You shouldn't copy me. I don't have millions in funding or any employees but I made something great, and I hope you will respect that," she posted.

More markets popping up

Farmers' Market operators told CBC they were taken aback by Ballett's post.

"We didn't even know this was a conflict until this was on Instagram," said executive director Pam Anstey.

St. John's Farmers' Market executive director Pam Anstey says they try to work with other markets to avoid conflicts. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

"There needs to be a little more communication between all of the ongoing market organizers, because right now, we would have no way of knowing when markets were planned from other people because those are personal, private ventures," she said.

"We certainly don't want to be perceived as coming in and bullying over somebody, ever."

The number of local markets is growing. In addition to the Farmers' Market and the Night Market, others — including the Some Good Market, the Etsy Market and the Vintage Emporium — are all being held periodically.

Anstey also pointed out the Farmers' Market is a nonprofit business with significant overhead costs.

The Farmers' Market moved into its new space on Freshwater Road last year. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

"Unfortunately, sometimes there has been overlap and, unfortunately, sometimes there probably will be again. But we are a part of this community and we want to continue to be a positive influence in this community," she said.

Ballett said she recognizes that with more markets popping up, some scheduling conflicts are unavoidable. But she thinks the Farmers' Market in particular should strive to avoid crowding out the smaller players.

"There's no perfect way of never having two things at one time," she said.

"But I do think, as they grow in the future, they should look at the community in the larger scope than just within their facility, and their vendors, and say, 'We've been subsidized to do this so how can we have the greatest impact on the public?'"

Anstey said the Farmers' Market tries to avoid scheduling conflicts and work with other markets as much as possible. She said a regular meeting of community market operators could help them all collaborate, rather than compete.

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