(Farmington, MI January 25, 2012)  A familiar face will be coordinating the happenings at the 2012 Farmington Farmers & Artisans Market when the season opens on Saturday, May 5.   Walter Gajewski, who managed the market last year as a volunteer, has been named the contracted Market Manager.  The Farmington DDA board of directors approved Gajewski’s one-year contract at its January 23, 2012 meeting. 

“I’m grateful for the invitation and opportunity to return as Market Manager.  I’m really looking forward to bringing back all the lessons I learned - from vendors to volunteers - starting with opening day”, stated Gajewski. 

The decision to retain Gajewski in a compensated position is well-warranted, according to DDA Executive Director Annette Knowles.  “Many improvements and accomplishments have been achieved since Walt took the reins in 2011.”

Among them include reorganization of the market for greater efficiency, reintroducing music as a result of increased sponsorships, attraction of many new vendors which increased the diversity and quality of the product mix and growth in the number of market volunteers and their activity level. 

Gajewski conducted a 2011 wrap-up presentation at the meeting detailing the successes of the market during his tenure.  At the top of the list was his willingness to assume the position as a volunteer during 2011, a move that improved the financial position of the market. 

A LOOK BACK AT 2011 

Transitioning to a new manager in 2011 required a plan of action with a road map of achievable markers. 

The season started off with a plan in mind.  A list of goals was created and the market was managed to those goals:  improve market financials, improve market layout and flow, improve market communications, increase community support & awareness, and support the DDA “destination city” objective. 

Visible changes were evident with 90 feet on the north side of the Walter E. Sundquist Pavilion being used for additional vendor booth space.  This approach gave more visibility to the market from Grand River Avenue.  S3 Architecture, along with input from various stakeholders, helped create a “retail” feel to the market, integrating growers and artisans in a more walkable space. 

The word about the market was expanded out with more customer touchpoints: season long banners in town, a Farmers Market Facebook page, a regular schedule of advertising along with weekly press releases, a newly-created market brochure listing all the vendors, sponsors and market activities for the season, and co-promotion with The Old Winery Market, now in its second year. 

FRIENDS OF THE MARKET 

2011 ushered in a strong outreach for volunteers via the Friends of the Market, who assisted in key areas that make the market what it is today.  Managed by Walt Gajewski and coordinated by Melissa Andrade, DDA Board Member and Main Street Organization Committee Chair, the Friends were critical to the success of the market. 

“Friends revamped the market newsletter which also included Vendor Profiles so customers could learn more about the farmer or crafter that they shop from to get an in-depth perspective on what it takes to create and produce their unique item.  The Friends were crucial in keeping the community in the know on activities and events by passing out market and community information at the Market Information booth and conducting merchandise and ticket sales.   The needs didn’t stop there.  Arriving at 6:30am to help with market setup and then doing teardown at the end of market day at 2 pm until 3:30 pm or later, a core crew of Friends lent their backs and smiles to the vendors and market related activities,” boasted Andrade. 

Three popular market activities - Cookin’ at the Market, Little Sprouts Kids Korner, and the  weekly Market Basket Giveaway - required the Friends for both onsite help and planning. 

The Friends of the Market gave a glimpse into the customers attending the market by collecting metrics such as attendance and zip code information.  Collected eleven times over the course of the 29 market weeks, an average attendance figure of close to 3500 per week was established with the market hitting record breaking attendance achieving over 4000 patrons on a few occasions – a first in market history. 

IMPROVING THE BOTTOM LINE

A plan was put into place for profitability of the market.  The average number of vendors was increased from 24 to 35 onsite weekly, a 46% increase.  More sponsorships were solicited to provide additional funding for programs, such as the Music at the Market series.  The sponsorships grew 15 fold from 2010. Total revenue from an increased number of onsite vendors plus those sponsor funds gave the market a total revenue increase of 120% over 2010.  The market was in a position to no longer need a Farmington DDA subsidy. 

As a result of these actions, the market realized record revenue, record sponsor support, record numbers of vendors, record attendance, and record number of market events. 

NOTE:  Walter Gajewski has resigned from the Farmington DDA Board of Directors to accept the position of compensated Market Manager. 

For more information on all of the events in Downtown Farmington, visit www.DowntownFarmington.org or find us on Facebook under Downtown Farmington and under Farmington Farmers & Artisans Market.