A unique outdoor market has been branching out in the Ponderosa neighborhood this summer.
It began in early June with Lauri Williams, a gardener from the Bigelow Gulch area, setting up shop in a parking lot on Bowdish Road near Dishman-Mica. Williams brought sprouting vegetable starts for crops like broccoli, cauliflower, green peppers and tomatoes. Despite less than serene weather, Williams stuck it out and was soon joined by other vendors for the official start of the Ponderosa Outdoor Market on June 26.
“It was pouring down rain and Lauri was there,” said Darcee Terhaar, co-owner of the Trellis Marketplace, a retail site on the property that sells home décor, garden ornaments and gourmet kitchen items.
For years, Terhaar had considered the space as the potential home of a farmers market that would cater to the Ponderosa neighborhood. Yet it wasn’t until Jennifer Calhoun, proprietor of The Bean Shack Espresso Stand, took the lead on the idea that it began to take flight.
“Jennifer really rallied the troops,” Terhaar said.
Calhoun has owned The Bean Shack since May and thought an outdoor market would be a boon to the area. She volunteered to coordinate the project but soon ran into a few hurdles based on the cold and soggy spring and early summer weather. It turned out area farmers and gardeners were feeling a little washed out.
“It was tough to get vendors because of the bad spring,” Calhoun said.
Things began to improve thanks to several factors. To begin with, the market is held each Tuesday, from 3 to 7 p.m., an off-time for vendors accustomed to Friday and Saturday venues. It was also a day away from its nearest competition – the Millwood Farmers Market, hosted each Wednesday, also from 3 to 7.
“We tried not to compete with other markets in the area,” Calhoun said.
Booths were also a bargain at $15. Soon half-a-dozen businesses were on board. Throughout the summer, the site has averaged between eight to 10 vendors hawking an eclectic mix of merchandise, including arts and crafts, homemade lasagna, garden ornaments, health and wellness products and local produce.
While customer traffic has been “up and down” according to Calhoun – a crowd of 30 to 40 typically gathers at the market each Tuesday afternoon and early evening – organizers say they have been encouraged by the progress. With plenty of parking and perks like live music, some say the site is becoming a community gathering place.
“I feel like we’re doing fine for our first year,” Calhoun said. “The neighborhood here is fantastic. They want us to succeed.”
After talk of closing the site down after Aug. 30, Calhoun said the market will remain open through next month. The venue will shut down on Sept. 6 as part of the Labor Day weekend, but reopen every Tuesday through Sept. 27.
Williams, whose product list this summer has included lettuce, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini and more, says the new market has benefited from clientele who “want to buy local.”
“People who come here are very supportive,” Williams said. “It’s getting better each week.”
A former resident of Liberty Lake, Williams pointed to the transformation of the outdoor market in that area which began in 2001 with eight vendors. The Liberty Lake Farmers Market now runs from mid-May through mid-October and features over 40 vendors each Saturday as well as an array of festivals and events throughout the season.
“I think it starts with the attitude of the vendors,” Williams said. “Our market has a friendly atmosphere. It will just take time.”
Want to go?
The Ponderosa Outdoor Market is located at 4102 S. Bowdish in Spokane Valley. The market is open each Tuesday, through September, from 3 to 7 p.m. To learn more, call 990-1678.