San Diego-based American Assets Trust, the shopping center’s owner, sent the surprise notice to Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market co-owners Heather Hunter and F. David Lent, who now say they will search for a new venue.
“The outpouring of support we have received in calls, texts, emails, messages and in social media is incredibly humbling. We are so thankful to have such passionate and vocal supporters. We are honored that we have served and will continue to serve such an appreciative community,” stated Hunter in a release Friday morning. “We ask the citizens of San Antonio to help us find a new home and to continue to show your support by joining us every Sunday.”
A letter from Senior Vice President of Real Estate Operations Patrick Kinney cited traffic and parking issues – which are likely to increase during the holiday season – as cause for the closure.
“During our preparation for the 2014 holiday season, we much received (sic) feedback regarding traffic and parking issues that arise during the holiday season,” the letter read. “After much discussion, we have decided it has become necessary to reestablish the Sunday parking availability to our tenants and their customers … ”
The letter came as a surprise to Hunter and Lent, who have been operating the farmers market for 3 1/2 years.
“We pay our rent on time and in full and are excellent leasees and neighbors…despite requests for information and a willingness to work with the center on this issue, we have been asked to leave,” Lent stated. “We were particularly surprised at this turn of events in light of the fact that they approved our request for expansion — of almost double our size — and encouraged us to add more vendors two months ago at the end of September. We are most concerned about our farmers and ranchers and their possible loss of income only a few weeks before Christmas. All of our members count on the market to feed their families and run their farms and ranches.”
The popular farmers market brings shoppers to the parking lot near Whole Foods Market at 255 E. Basse Rd. every Sunday –anywhere from 2,500 to 4,000 people, according to Hunter. Rain or shine, nearly 40 local and regional farmers, ranchers and artisan food producers sell fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products at the Quarry from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. A full list of vendors is available here which includes 3G Farm, Brazos Valley Cheese, Hudspeth River Ranch, La Panaderia, Ming’s Things, Shrub Drinks, and more.
Chef Michael Sohocki of Restaurant Gwendolyn, who takes pride in using locally sourced ingredients, spoke fondly of his booth at the Quarry and was troubled to hear of the closure.
“The Farmers Market closure strikes a blow against local farmers, ranchers, and (those) supporting local agriculture,” he said. “Markets like this are the only sure way to get (producers) out from under the control of multinational corporations and (consumers out) of a food chain that produces old food from far away and that has nothing to do with our land or our people.”
Sohocki now regularly sets up shop each Saturday at the city’s biggest open marker for locally-sourced food, the Pearl Farmers Market, but thinks there could be an even more permanent market someday.
“I wish that someone would open a grocery store that only sold things from local farmers, ranchers, bakers, artisan producers,” he said. “A small outlet for that kind of thing – I think it’s possible … if carefully placed.”
Vendors and market owners aren’t the only ones surprised by the closure – some market customers are equally concerned.
“I would think the tenants in the Quarry would be overjoyed to have such a successful community market. I am so surprised and saddened by this decision,” said Cynthia Franklin. “My family is at the market every week and we always shop after visiting the market. I love the sense of community and how the market transforms that space into a walkable shopping area.”
Beyond a source of food outside of traditional grocery stores, the Farmers Market also provided a healthy activity.
“This closure is truly baffling, especially in a town with a huge (literally) issue with sedentary lifestyle and poor food choices leading to an epidemic of obesity. No wonder SA is one of the fattest cities in the U.S.,” stated Alamo Heights resident Jennifer Lawlace in an email. “Forward thinking people and ventures supporting community projects that promote both physical activity and fresh foods are nixed in the name of what – more parking? Incomprehensible.”
Customer Roxanna Newsom echoed the sentiment of neighbors that believe there must be some sort of compromise possible.
“My children and I love the market. We buy produce, meat, cheese, crepes, and my nephew’s tasty treats. I have not noticed the parking/safety issues but imagine there is a solution,” she stated in an email. “What about changing the hours of operation and perhaps closing the Farmers Market a bit earlier – or opening 30 minutes earlier? Is there a different spot at The Quarry that could be used?”
Some question the decision from a business point of view – the Farmers Markets could have been seen as an added amenity to the shopping center.
“Given the diverse demographic the Quarry serves, it has surprised me how quickly the market has become a community mixer where local friends visit in a setting that the vastness of the Quarry does not otherwise provide,” Tim Swan. “Realizing the potential community draw and resulting goodwill, I suspect that most commercial real estate folks I know would have incorporated such an amenity in the original development plan, let alone discourage it if by good fortune they chanced into it.”
Kinney and American Assets Trusts were not immediately available for comment on Friday.
*Featured/top image: A busy day at the Quarry Farmers &Ranchers Market. Photo courtesy of Facebook.
This story was originally published on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.