(Editor’s note: The following unpublished story was written in 2015, when Caruso VP Rick Lemmo was mentioned in an article in the L.A.Times about the closing of the Glendale Farmers Market. Lemmo is now the 2018 president of the board of directors for the Glendale BID, the Downtown Glendale Association. His son, Nick, is the contact person for that BID [Business Improvement District] and also sits on the Glendale Chamber of Commerce Board.)
Glendale Farmers Market on Hold
The Glendale Farmers Market, which opened in 1992 on the 100 block of N. Brand Boulevard and was relocated to a church parking lot off Maryland Avenue in January 2014, closed in November.
The market’s original location was within walking distance of the Americana at Brand shopping mall, owned and operated by Caruso Affiliated since 2008.
Rick Lemmo, a senior VP at Caruso Affiliated who also serves as president of the Downtown Glendale Association (a business improvement district), said in an L.A.Times article about the market in early January that the association was studying a new location and hoping to reopen in April.
“We never lost money,” Christopher Nyerges, who operated the farmers market for 13 years on Brand, told this editor, formerly of the Palisades News.
The BID took over the market in 2013 and Nyerges was replaced.
“Farmers markets should be like yard sales–they need to be in plain view,” Nyerges said. “It was the ideal location on Brand Boulevard.” The market operated every Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Nyerges predicted that the new location would fail because it was hidden away. But, he says, he was told by a BID member that the market was going to be moved off Brand because it was “dirty-looking.”
The official press release said the move was made “to give the market its own dedicated space so that it can expand its offerings to include prepared food options and more organic produce to attract more lunchtime business.”
Nyerges said that in January 2014, before the market opened in the new location, farmers were told they were going to have to sign new agreements and would have to pay a higher percentage and a flat fee.
Carole Gallegos was brought into run the farmers market, which initially increased in size. One newspaper article noted the increase in vendors was mostly in prepared foods and crafts. According to Gallegos, merchants selling produce paid 7 percent of their income to cover their booth costs, while vendors selling other kinds of products paid 12 percent.
The farmers market was renamed “The Downtown Glendale Market” and the goal was to have as many as 75 vendors. When it opened, all of the vendors wore aprons with the market’s emblem and had blue-and-white checked tablecloths at their stands.
The BID association spent $60,000 taking out ads and producing fliers to promote the market. But, according to the Glendale News-Press, by August 2014, only 18 vendors remained.
A new location, Chess Alley, has been suggested by the BID, another location Nyerges dismisses.
“That idea was floated a few years back. I went in there with measuring tape and prepared a report to the City board, and the numbers showed it would not work, unless you wanted a very tiny market,” Nyerges said. “Plus, farmers could not get trucks in there, so every farmer would have to dolly their stuff in and then dolly it all back. When I polled the farmers, only one said he’d do it.”
Nyerges thinks the real problem is that urban businessmen don’t understand farmers.
“These are real farmers who actually grow food,” he said. “You must have respect for farmers to operate this sort of business successfully. In other words, I worked for the farmers and the farmers worked for the people.”
Although the Glendale Farmers Market was unsuccessful under the Downtown Glendale Association’s leadership, the L.A. Times story stated: “Lemmo said placing trees and planters along Brand Boulevard and deploying downtown ambassadors—people outfitted in blue shorts and light-colored caps who sweep the sidewalks and give directions—were two of the association’s significant achievements this past year.”
In 2015, Liz Jaeger of Caruso Affiliated was asked if the Swarthmore Farmers Market would remain open during remediation and construction. “Yes,” was the answer.
She was asked, “Once construction is completed in 2017, will the farmers market remain on Swarthmore in its current location?” The News never received a reply and Jaeger left her job at Caruso, shortly after City approval was received for the project.
Circling the News wrote Caruso spokesperson Mary Fontimallas on November 5, 2018 to ask when and if the Farmers Market would reopen on Swarthmore, but have not yet received a response.