PITTSBURG, Kan. —
A pavilion under construction by Pittsburg Farmers Market will not only be finished in time for the market’s opening day in April, but has attracted vendors to the point organizers are scrambling to find more room.
“All but one of our old vendors came back and we’ve had many new applications — I don’t even know how many. We’re full plus some, so we’re working on rearranging to come up with space so we can allow more,” said market President Ed Cook, a Barton County, Mo., grower.
“It’s completely because of the pavilion,” Cook said. “I knew when we got a building, we’d have a lot more people wanting to come be vendors. And we did.”
The 142-foot-long, 42-foot-wide pavilion is located south of Pittsburg Community Middle School and directly across Broadway from Trailhead Park and Watco Hike-Bike Trail at East 11th Street.
The market, which first opened about 2001, had in recent years set up shop under pop-up canopies each Saturday and Wednesday on Second Street, east of Broadway across from Immigrant Park. But April and October can be windy, cold and wet, and the summer months can be in the triple digits.
Plans for a permanent structure for the market were in the works for several years, but there were stumbling blocks along the way, including securing a location and coming up with enough funding.
Last spring, members were able to amass about $182,000 toward the approximately $225,000 project, which includes a $41,000 loan from the city that was recommended by the Economic Development Advisory Committee and approved by the City Commission in 2011. It also includes a loan and grant from USDA’s Rural Development program that totaled approximately $142,000.
Vendors plan to repay the loans through membership fees and fundraising.
But last summer, the group was stymied by the lowest bid — from Home Center Construction — coming in $22,000 higher than the architect’s estimate, causing them to re-evaluate the blueprint and ultimately choose a phased approach to adding extras like cosmetic brickwork and restrooms.
Watco offered the land to the Pittsburg Farmers Market on a long-term lease at a “very reasonable rate,” Cook said.
Home Center Construction has been working on the structure since last fall, and is nearly finished. The market will open on April 19.
“It’s perfect,” Cook said. “ It’s visible, there’s enough room, we’re not tucked back in behind where no one can find us.”
Now the group is turning its attention to laying down millings on what will become the parking lot, and when the weather warms, it will be paved with asphalt.
Vendors note that because there now is a physical presence, the market likely will get more customers.
“This will show the community that we are a permanent part of it instead of transient like we are now,” said Jill Campbell, a produce vendor whose daughter also sets up a booth to sell craft items when weather allows.
“Putting up tents in the wind, the rain, is quite a struggle for us, and it’s no fun for our customers,” Campbell said.
The market will plan a grand opening for the pavilion sometime in May when vendors have more to offer, Cook said.
The pavilion will be available for rent for events such as family reunions, company picnics and birthday parties on days it is not in use by the market.