The new Chestertown Farmers Market location at the East Coast Storage facility at High Street and Morgnec Road has become a success, and Ward 3 Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver says he wants to make the location permanent — long after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us.
Tolliver was originally against reopening the Farmers’ Market on May 2 at East Coast Storage because it was organized and planned without his knowledge and because of concerns about traffic safety.
Tolliver was unaware of the plan until the night before the reopening when he received an email from Mayor Cerino telling him the market was coming to Ward 3.
“It all happened behind closed doors,” Ellsworth said in an interview on May 4. “I would like to have been part of the process and would like to have known about the plans.”
Change of Heart
“I see a more diverse group of shoppers at the market than I’ve ever seen and residents at the nearby apartment buildings can walk there,” Tolliver said in a brief interview on Tuesday. “And the traffic is moving more smoothly than I had anticipated.”
Tolliver also said the East Coast Storage location could help uptown businesses like Uncle Charlie’s Bistro.
“They could go there for lunch after hitting the market,” he said.
Bringing the market to East Coast Storage was the answer to separate vendors 30-40 yards apart as per the guidelines established by the Kent County Health Department to reduce the risk of further spread of COVID-19.
“I was originally against it [but] now that we have it, we don’t want to let it go,” Tolliver said at the June 1 council meeting.
“You’re not serious,” Cerino chuckled.
“I’m very serious,” Tolliver replied, also chuckling. “I’ve paid attention to how they’ve managed it. The way [the market manager] has this set up right now is working.”
The exchanges were jovial and cordial about the irony of Tolliver’s sudden embrace of the market in Ward 3, but Tolliver was steadfast about keeping the market at East Coast Storage.
Cerino spoke of mutualism, and said the market should have a symbiotic relationship with “as many businesses as possible.”
“I think we all would agree [that’s] downtown,” Cerino said.
Downtown businesses are voicing that the loss of the Saturday market is hurting their businesses, which reopened May 16 after Gov. Larry Hogan announced an incremental reopening of the state’s economy under Stage 1 of Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery.
The council discussed a plan to close off streets downtown and bring the market back without the need for a police presence.
Ellsworth said Tuesday the market benefits the town no matter where it is.
“I’m open to creative ways to help all the businesses in Chestertown.”