Findlay Market in Cincinnati is a local institution with a well-deserved reputation for quality vendors and product. Although my very favorite vendor at Findlay is a year-round indoor vendor (Herbs & Spice and Everything Nice), summer is really the best time to go to Findlay, because that’s when the farmers’ market is open and thriving. The local farmers there have consistently excellent produce (even in the most trying of summers) and they’re just plain great to deal with. Ask any Cincinnatian about Findlay Market, and they’re likely to squeal like ‘tweens at a Hanna Montana concert.
Me, I have a kind of love/hate relationship with the Findlay experience. The vendors are great, but, a Saturday morning is not all wine and roses. The major issues I have with Findlay are parking and the crowds. When you go on a Saturday, you pretty much have to resign yourself to the fact that it’s going to take at least 15 minutes of driving around to find a place to park. Last Saturday, it was over 20, and I was this close to giving up and going home. I think a lot of Findlay’s regulars find it quaint to have to park on the street 4 blocks away in a dangerous part of the city and rough it on foot past crackhouses, but, all I can think about is the 5 other errands I still have to run after Findlay (errands where I’ll be able to pull right into a spot near the building entrance, run in, run out, done). I wish the city government would embrace Findlay’s stature and influence on the city as a whole, and just tear down the empty slums that line the block, converting them to parking, or something. I’ve skipped several rainy Saturdays this year because I just didn’t want to deal with the parking.
Then there are the crowds. These are crowds you just don’t find anywhere else (thank goodness), in terms of volume and personality. Now, all credit due to Findlay for creating such a pleasant shopping environment. Shame on the crowds for abusing the hospitality. The farmers’ market stands, for example, line both sides of a narrow covered corridor on the north side of the complex (see photo above). Even when empty, the walkway is fairly narrow (can probably accommodate 3 people abreast). Fill that walkway with the Saturday crowd, complete with strollers, free-wheeling toddlers, and pets on leashes, though, and you’ve got yerself a traffic jam. But that’s not even the problem.
The issue is that folks run into their friends and acquaintances, and insist on stopping and chatting, right where they are, wherever that may be. And most of the time, it’s right at a vendor’s table. Last weekend, I was at Findlay for over an hour and the same 4 people were standing in front of my favorite local farmer’s booth, yapping the entire time. Not shopping. Yapping. No amount of excuse-me-pardon-me would get them to part. (I would move on to do other shopping and check back every once in a while. No dice.) So, that vendor lost my business that day (and, just before I left the market, I also witnessed a line that had formed behind the yappers break up and disperse, so, who knows how much money was left unspent that day), through no fault of the farmer’s own (sorry, Thistlehair Farmsyou’re still my fave!).
The indoor, year-round vendors really have it no better. Again, narrow aisles, rude people clogging the works. Makes me a little sad for all of the hard-working small business owners set up there. I wonder how much business they lose to loiterers.
Findlay’s a jewel in the Queen City’s crown, but a little common sense from the peeps could go a long way.
Anderson Township Farmers’ Market
In a city that is thick with open-air farmers’ markets, I’m oddly proud to report that my own neighborhood started one this year, the Anderson Township Farmers’ Market, with excellent vendor and producer response. One of the reasons I had no qualms about skipping Findlay a number of times this year was because of the quality and selection available in my own neighborhood. Fruits and vegetables, brown eggs, chickens, artisan bread, cheese and dips, desserts of every kind, fresh flowers, and even dog biscuits. It’s all there. (I discovered that one of my co-workers owns a chicken farm, and she and her husband have set up a booth all summer long. Cool. Gooooo Dean Family Farm!) (Also worth noting is the politeness and consideration afforded by my fellow Andersonians. In the photo above, note the two women in the foreground, on the right. They’re chatting. See how they’re standing well away from the vendor tables on the left? Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Courtesy, baby, courtesy.)
This post also appears as part of the Farmer’s Market Report, a cool site for fans of farmer’s markets to share their weekly experiences.