Vendors line the parking lot of the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market. Photo by Scott Ball.
Vendors line the parking lot of the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market. Photo by Scott Ball.

After the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market closes on Dec. 7, the market is scheduled to open at a new, to-be-determined location the following Sunday, Dec. 14.

In a prepared statement released Sunday, the Alamo Quarry Market shopping center reported that they are still “determined to discontinue” the market, despite the outpouring of public protest. The release cites parking problems, even though only a few of the center’s stores are open before noon on Sundays.

According to Arthur Cavazos, a public relations representative hired by the Quarry, customers of anchor stores complained about parking availability and those stores relayed complaints up to the corporate office of San Diego-based American Assets Trust, which owns the shopping center. Cavazos called the market “a victim of its own success.”

The statement also included the possibility of reopening a weekly farmers market after the holiday season. Whether any market would choose to operate in the space remains to be seen after the current operators received a surprise, three-week eviction notice without the benefit of any meetings or conversations. That release also cited ambiguous parking concerns.

None of the nearby stores open on Sunday before 12 p.m., except Whole Foods. The market ends promptly at 1 p.m. There seemed to be more than enough parking on Sunday, Nov. 23, a sunny, fall day. Most of the Quarry’s western side parking was empty, except for farmers market customers, but moving the weekly market to that site was not an option with the owners.

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“Most weeks, I’ll drop by some shop or another at the Quarry after the market, and I bet most customers who come to spend money at the market probably do the same thing,” said vendor Danny Shaffer with Oh-Kimchi

If that’s true of only a quarter of the 2,500-4,000 people who frequent the market each week, the market should represent a significant revenue boost for Quarry businesses.

The controversy surrounding the eviction notice has stirred a serious backlash, with the public flooding the in boxes and voicemails of Alamo Quarry Market corporate decision-makers. Still, the decision is unlikely to change and many across San Antonio are beginning to speculate about the market’s possible new home.

Heather Hunter and David Lent, founders of the Quarry Farmers Market, also started a Saturday farmers market at the Blue Star Arts Complex last year, but construction on South Alamo Street lowered attendance and the market had to end. Now that the construction has ended, some are hoping the market reopens there.

Others see it an opportunity to add a farmers market to the Northwest side, citing enormous parking lots at UTSA’s main campus and in Stone Oak that are largely unused on Sundays as ideal locations for a big market. After recent comments, however, those locations seem less likely.

Lent met with reporters Sunday morning amid the bustle of customers on a perfect South Texas November day, and said more than 100 different venue owners had reached out to the couple with an offer to talk about relocation. The main locations they are considering, Lent said, are within two miles of the Quarry. 

Market Founder Heather Hunter is interviewed at the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market.  Photo by Scott Ball.
Market co-founder Heather Hunter is interviewed by reporters at the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market. Photo by Scott Ball.

That sent reporters to the map to explore possible venues within a two-mile circumference. While there might be any number of property and business owners that would like to attract the market’s customers on a weekend, the question is which locale represents the best option for serving the population in the Alamo Heights area and the near-Northside?

Staying close will maintain the strength of the community surrounding the market. During its three-year tenancy, the market has steadily grown from 10 to nearly 30 booths. The market’s success has even propelled certain vendors to adopt brick and mortar locations, including Bakery Lorraine and La Panaderia.

Given the affluence and culture of Alamo Heights and the Quarry, a farmers market there was in fertile soil to grow. Owners Hunter and Lent are determined to keep serving and growing that customer base.

Besides proximity, Lent and Hunter said they are looking for locations with local businesses rather than the national chains that dominate the Quarry. They want a strong community in the new location and sufficient parking to accommodate expected market growth.

Market founder Dave Lent at the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market.  Photo by Scott Ball.
Market co-founder David Lent at the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market. Photo by Scott Ball.

The Whole Foods at the Quarry isn’t the only grocery store in the immediate area. The nearby Shops at Lincoln Heights on Basse Road are anchored by a large H-E-B that might benefit from farmers market customers also frequenting the grocery store on the same visits. While that H-E-B store might sell less produce on Sunday mornings, it would probably sell more staples unavailable at the outside market.

The Yard at 5309 McCullough Avenue, south of Basse Road, is home to local favorites like Two Hearts Yoga & Fitness, Yaya’s Thai Food, Olmos Perk, and Urth Juice Bar, with a strong community that would integrate well with the market. Parking space, however, could be insufficient to accommodate the market’s existing customer base.

The University of Incarnate Word has a large parking area that is lightly used on Sunday mornings, and features the headwaters of the San Antonio River, but the only retail within walking distance is Central Market, which features a large selection of fresh produce and organic fare.

Park North near Northstar Mall has ample parking space and is home to several local businesses, including Earth Burger. The area directly in front of the Alamo Drafthouse and LOL Comedy Club is nearly deserted on Sunday and could bring more customers into the outlet.

With luck, the new location will be selected before the final edition of the Quarry Farmers Market on Dec. 7. That would give regular customers as well as residents near the new site the chance to attend the opening market next month without vendors or their clients missing a week.

“Any plans for this market will be successful,” long-time vendor Tony Koch said Sunday. “There’s enough momentum that I don’t have any doubt that the customers will follow it.”

*Featured/top image: Vendors line the parking lot of the Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market.  Photo by Scott Ball.

This story was originally published on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. 

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Mitch Hagney

Mitch Hagney is a writer and hydroponic farmer in downtown San Antonio. Hagney is CEO of LocalSprout and president of the Food Policy Council of San Antonio.