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Vendors weathering storm at Wednesday indoor market

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The weather on Wednesdays this winter may have been especially severe, but both organizers and vendors at the inaugural Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce Winter Market said they remain optimistic.

The weekly farmers market is held below the Stream Global building in downtown Watertown after Washington Street Properties, the owner of the property, approached the chamber with the market opportunity.

The chamber contacted vendors from the downtown summer market, which runs from May until October.

Chamber office manager Toni M. Miller said a portion of the $10,000 FreshConnect grant the chamber received from the state went to the market.

The weather cooperated for the market’s first day, Jan. 15, which Ms. Miller said was the market’s busiest day so far.

“It was great weather, great attendance.”

Dorothy K. Duflo owns and operates Duffy’s Digs, a homemade jewelry business based in Lowville. She said she found out about the market during its first week and began selling at the market the following week.

She said her business has been greatly affected by the extreme weather this year. On Jan. 22, Ms. Duflo’s first day at the market, the mean temperature for the day was 19 degrees below zero. The low temperature of 37 degrees below zero that day set a daily record.

Ms. Miller agreed that the weather has negatively impacted the market so far.

“It’s been tough,” she said. “You can’t predict the weather.”

LaMont’s Food Fair has been setting up at the market for the past three weeks after proprietor Doug LaMont said he was called to action after another food vendor backed out.

Mr. LaMont, who sets up shop in the parking lot of Tractor Supply Company in Lowville every other day but Wednesday and Sunday, said business has been steady, but could be better.

One unexpected drawback he noted was the fact that employees of Stream Global Services are unable to get to the market directly through the building due to a locked door separating the Stream office from the market.

This locked door, Mr. LaMont said, means that if one of the roughly 700 Stream employees wants to come to the market, he or she must exit the building and walk all the way around.

“That hurts,” he said, in reference to the locked door.

He estimated that 30 employees would come for lunch if there was direct access between the two parts. Now, he said, he “can’t get five or six people to come down.”

Mr. LaMont’s trailer is a staple at many local festivals and events and has participated in other Chamber-sponsored markets, but for nearly half the vendors, this market is the first Chamber-sponsored market they’ve been a part of.

Out of the 10 vendors currently at the market, Ms. Miller said five of them are new and “very interested” in participating in the upcoming summer market as well.

“We’re hoping they will be part of the summer market too,” Ms. Miller said.

The summer market is currently being planned, but in the more immediate future, vendors and organizers alike are pining for better weather.

When asked what she expected for the market once the thermometer goes above freezing and the heavy winds begin to calm, Ms. Miller said she is “very optimistic” that attendance will improve.

“Absolutely attendance will go up,” she said.

Mr. LaMont agreed. “When it warms up, it has potential,” he said. “I’m sticking with it.”

The Chamber of Commerce is already looking to next year, but the market may not be in the same format. Ms. Miller said she was entertaining the idea of extending the summer market by moving the market indoors for October through December. The one larger market idea is still in planning, but both Mr. LaMont and Ms. Dufro said they’d be in favor of it.

“It would be awesome,” Mr. LaMont said. He said that the continuation of the summer market would allow farmers to keep growing longer. For craft vendors, such as Ms. Dufro, Mr. LaMont said the new schedule would allow for holiday shoppers to take advantage of the local crafts and wares.

“With no break, the customers would still be coming,” he said.

Ms. Miller agreed, saying that the proposal to create the longer summer-fall market is a “good idea” and that there is more of a precedent for such markets, rather than the two split markets.

Regardless of which season the indoor market will be held in, Ms. Dufro said she’s already looking toward the future and is pleased with the market so far.

“It’s extraordinary,” she said.

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