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The Shopper News, September 6, 2000

Farmers market soars to new ‘Heights’
By Stefanie Kastrinsky, Correspondent

Hasbrouck Heights -- If you have recently driven through Hasbrouck Heights on a Tuesday between the hours of 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., you could not have missed the bustle of activity at the corner of the Boulevard and Washington Place. By all accounts, the first Annual Hasbrouck Heights Farmers Market has exceeded the expectations of its hardworking planners, farmers, and already, regular shoppers.

After many months of diligent planning, and with the help of several residents, the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce kicked off the borough’s farmer’s market on Tuesday, July 11. Every Tuesday since, the market had drawn a larger crowd of new and returning shoppers.

"It’s a pleasant surprise the way things have turned out. The farmers are excited and every week gets better," said Tom Meli, the market’s project coordinator and Hasbrouck Heights resident.

The market currently provides the produce of four farmers, one of whom pickles cucumbers. For George Asprocolas, one of the participating farmers, the market has truly exceeded his expectations for a first-year market.

"Holding a market during the week can be difficult; people can’t get there because of work. But this market has gone over extremely well, each week bringing more and more new and repeat customers," he said.

Asprocolas sells out almost everything that he brings from his 12-acre farm in Millstone Township in Monmouth County, and is usually busy taking down the orders of people who can’t believe that he has grown most of this produce himself.

Looking ahead, Asprocolas only anticipates continued growth for the market. "The market has a lot of momentum because of all of the hard work that Tom Meli has done," he said.

The Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce first started planning the farmers market two years ago in an effort to revitalize the area’s business district, particularly on the Boulevard, the borough’s main thoroughfare. While it is too early to measure the financial impact of the market, Meli said some local businesses have seen improvement.

"While we can’t say that the farmers market has put a charge into the Boulevard’s businesses, those located close to where the market is held and those that advertise and know how to draw people into their shops, have seen benefits," said Meli.

Part of what has contributed to the early success of the market - both in attracting customers and increasing business for some local merchants - has been the "Weekly Business Sponsor." Each week, a different, local business is responsible for promoting the farmers market. This may include advertising the market in local newspapers, or simply helping to defray some of the market’s costs.

"We are using market sponsorship because most markets charge farmers a fee to participate, and that makes it hard to attract farmers," Meli said. "Because Hasbrouck Heights didn’t want to charge farmers a fee, the business sponsor covers it."

Part of the market sponsorship package includes a venue for the free advertisement of that local business. In early August, the Heights Flower Shop sponsored the market. According to owner Ray Vorisek, he not only set up a booth to promote the shop’s summer garden bouquet and handed a flower to everyone who stopped by, but also set up a surprise bouquet lottery. As part of promoting "random acts of kindness," people may stop buy the Heights Flower Shop and drop the name of someone whom they think is deserving of a random act of kindness into a box. If that person’s name is pulled out, he or she will receive a surprise bouquet. According to Vorisek, in the first two months of the market, surprise bouquet lottery and market sponsorship have helped promote business.

"They have created that introduction, and brought people into the store," he said.

In addition to being a place to buy great, Jersey-grown produce, and advertise his business, Vorisek noted that the farmers market is becoming a meeting place of sorts for the local community.

"In today’s world, it’s become a funny little meeting place, almost a little mini-carnival every week. I would love to see this take off and move down the Boulevard," he said.

Although the summer is coming to a close, the Hasbrouck Heights Farmers Market will continue through the end of October. In his excitement, Asprocolas said he has already started taking pie orders and planning a pumpkin display.

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