This pandemic has forced most municipalities and businesses to become very creative and very flexible. From creativity and flexibility came thoughtful changes that have saved businesses and kept parts this world moving. In testing these changes we have seen what works and what doesn’t work. In moving the market to East Coast Storage we saw that it works in that location and that there is a need and a desire for access to a fresh market in other parts of the town.
As Councilman Tolliver stated, he saw a more diverse group of shoppers at the market and would like to see it remain and give a a boost to the businesses in that part of town similar to the boost it gives businesses downtown. Having the market in the fourth ward showed there was something missing. Being at East Coast Storage and providing easy access to fresh local food was something residents in that part of town wanted and something they were not getting before. So what do we do?
I agree the market should be moved back downtown. It is the perfect setting and there is great synergy with the other shops that creates a strong local economy. That is part of the design of the market, but the move to East Coast Storage has brought up these interesting points that should be discussed.
Perhaps there can be a Tuesday or Wednesday market at East Coast or another location. Would be a direct solution. Would need to see which vendors were interested and could attend. Could be tested for a few weeks and reassessed.
Perhaps there is a bigger discussion as to how the town is connected or not connected; how wards or neighborhoods are connected with the rest of the town. There could be a protected bike lane running from Flat Land Road all the way to the foot of High Street. Such infrastructure would better connect residents to the market and make it easier to access other parts of the town for those who cannot drive.
Perhaps upper High Street could be re-imagined with more trees, wider sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and more green space for people. Such changes would draw people to that part of town the same way they are drawn downtown. This is part of placemaking – making places where people want to be.
The Farmer’s Market is a great resource and the Chestertown Market is one of the best in the state. It provides a market for vendors to sell their local goods, access for residents to local healthy food, and a place for start up businesses to dip their toes in the water with very little capital and risk. I can think of numerous businesses in town that got their start at the Farmer’s Market. And it creates a place where people want to be, and all parts of town should have that.
By Owen Bailey serves on the Chestertown Planning Commission and is a former candidate for the town’s Ward 1 council seat.