Although the April showers haven’t yet stopped, they still brought May flowers – and the outdoor Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market. The outdoor season of the farmers' market began on May 4 and will continue to take place every Saturday until it is taken indoors after November 2.
Tucked away in a parking lot off of University Place and behind the Hilton Garden Inn, the farmers' market features a long list of vendors selling items from plants to baked goods.
I spoke with novice and veteran vendors alike to see what brought them to the market, what their enterprises are all about and how the recent weather has affected business.
Not Just Cookies Bakery
Owner: Johnathon Bush
First year at the market: He brought his business to the market to grow his customer base in Evanston and at Northwestern.
The Floured Apron
Culinary Director: Dani Zuchovicki
First year at the market: They brought the company to the market both to recruit volunteers and “to expand into the Evanston community, because we get a lot of our students from social service agencies here in Evanston.” “What we love about the Evanston Farmers' Market is that they accept Link and SNAP benefits (a government program that helps low-income individuals and families purchase food), which a lot of our potential students would be involved in,” said Zuchovicki.
About the business: The Floured Apron is a nonprofit that offers a 10-week job training program, including instruction on baking fundamentals, career development courses, and job placement to Chicago women from underserved communities.
Owner: Nadiya Vuchasta
Reason for coming to the market: Bringing her business to the market was the next big step for her company, since “people recognize you, people try your product, [you] meet with new customers, represent your product to the peoples [sic]. And I think this is [a] good platform for new business, for small business.”
The weather’s effect on business: “It’s sometimes really, really bad because when [it’s] really hot, the cupcakes or macarons or cookies, which have a filling, go and melted [sic]. It’s completely melted [sic]. But when [it’s] cold weather, perfectly. All desserts, they [are] beautiful. So, we like it more cold. Not hot.”
Frosty Productions, affiliated with Patz Maple & Honey Farms
Owner: John Brandell
Ninth year at the market: “I like the market,” he said. “The clientele is very unique and we have a very quality product.”
The weather’s effect on business: The recent storms have not affected the company much “because there are people that come to markets that always come, regardless.”
Employee and nephew of owner: Reese Babbitt
Fifth year at the market: “My uncle’s (owner) been here for 14 or 15 [years], and the family business has been passed on for generations."
The weather’s effect on business: As “the weather really affects the actual farming of the plants,” they are hoping for sunny weather in order to avoid having to “fall back” in their production. “When it’s nice and bright and sunny, usually there’s a lot more people at the market, and that’s when [it] starts to flood in and that’s when it gets really busy,” said Babbitt.
Market staff employee: Kathie Ang
Fifth year at the market: “We have definitely some loyal customers who wait for us every week and buy our tofu, and then we always have some new customers who we introduce the tofu [to] and kind of get them hooked on our product.”
The weather’s effect on business: “The sunnier it is, you know, the more people that are here. If it’s rainy, it definitely keeps some people away. But as the summer goes on, we’ll expect more and more people.”
Noir d’ Ébène Chocolat et Pâtisserie
Owner: Journey Shannon Sudduth
About the business: A chocolate company with the mission of “making Evanston happier”
The weather’s effect on business: “Evanston residents are wonderful and they’re very committed to the market, so no matter what the weather is, they come out and they show out and they share and shine with us.”