Trouble for Cleveland Park’s Proposed Farmers Market

On Monday we learned Cleveland Park was looking to launch a farmers market every Saturday from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm on Connecticut Ave between 4Ps and the Post Office.

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission voted 4 to 2 to reject the proposed Farmers’ Market.

ANC3C05 Rep Leila Afzal updates on the CP listserv:

A local resident has asked for an explanation of the ANC vote objecting to the issuance of a public space permit for a proposed farmers’ market to be set up on the western side walk on Connecticut Avenue. I am happy to share my reasons for my vote. Although this was a very difficult decision for me, I determined I had too many outstanding questions/concerns to support the application.

First, Brookville opposed the application. They are an anchor for our community and have very much been there for us when we have needed them. They agreed to open up shop when no other grocery stores would (including Magruders which came years later). They have literally opened up and stayed open during blizzards. I could go on about the things they’ve done for the community. I wasn’t persuaded that shoppers would both shop at the farmers’ market and cross Connecticut Avenue to continue shopping at Brookville or Yes. If we are hoping to attract pedestrians more than drivers, people can only carry so much and are not likely to buy a week’s worth of sundries and carry them home.

Second, I was persuaded by my fellow Commissioner, Richard Steacy’s, concerns for his constituents who are very dependent on Brookville. He represents many seniors and young professionals who do not own cars and use Brookville as their primary grocery store. I didn’t want to contribute to the pressure Brookville is already feeling from Petco (pet food sales are down) and CVS and Walgreen’s that have significant grocery departments.

Third, I was not satisfied with the Market manager’s response regarding truck management. She stated that she had secured 6 spaces for the 10 expected trucks. But when asked where the other trucks were going to park, she said two blocks away in the residential neighborhood. Saturday mornings are prime shopping and zoo parking times. This would only add pressure to the shortage of parking we’re already experiencing. She also did not seem to have an enforcement plan if the vendors chose to park in the neighborhood rather than the designated parking spaces.

And finally, there are already 4 farmers’ markets within a short distance of Cleveland Park; two are less than a mile away. Three are also located where there isn’t direct competition with brick and mortar stores. Plus, we heard that Adas Israel may be considering sponsoring a market as well.

There was no one definitive reason why I voted the way I did. It was the cumulative impact of all these reasons that swayed me in one direction. I hope we keep the conversation on farmers’ markets going. Perhaps the proponents can reconsider moving the market to John Eaton or other locations near the heart of Cleveland Park and not just on the commercial strip.

42 Comment

  • Isn’t this a reason why both the existing stores and the farmers market could both exist, and not a reason why the farmers market would take business away, “…people can only carry so much and are not likely to buy a week’s worth of sundries and carry them home.”

  • So, basically, to protect a business from competition. Disgusting.

  • This is an absolutely ridiculous argument against having a Farmer’s Market. It’s a competitive landscape, and catering to one business is anti-competitive. I use the supermarket when I need basic supplies, but who are they to tell me that I can’t choose to shop at a local farmer’s market one day per week for FRESH vegetables?

    This is favoritism and it’s absurd. I hope the community rallies around the farmer’s market because Cleveland Park is the perfect location for one.

    I know this will make think long and hard about giving any business to the favorite supermarket now.

    • Right.

      I live and shop in Cleveland Park. I do most of my grocery shopping at Brookville and Yes Organic. Neither of them carry fresh, organic and local produce. That’s fine – they’re grocery stores and they’re not setup to handle such things… Which is why I shop at farmers’ markets elsewhere in the District every week.

      If Brookville insists on preventing a farmers’ market from locating nearby, perhaps it should make more of an effort to sell produce that’s fresh, local and organic. If it can’t, then why block the effort?

      • Yes Organic doesn’t carry fresh, organic produce? What on earth are you talking about? That’s their specialty. LOL.

  • Hahahahahaha. This is a joke, right? Apparently in Cleveland Park Communism and central planning is alive and well!

    Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised given all of the empty and underutilized storefronts in Cleveland Park that have been the product of a long history of NIMBY meddling.

    • What empty storefronts are you referring to? And what constitutes an “underutilized” storefront? I disagree with the ANC’s vote, but your comment shows you’re not familiar with the neighborhood.

  • I am puzzled by Afzal’s reasoning. Afzal says she was worried about harming Brookville and Yes because she was unconvinced people would buy a week’s worth of sundries and carry them home. And yet if she doesn’t believe people would buy a week’s worth of stuff, where’s the harm to Brookville and Yes? People would have to go out and shop somewhere other than the farmer’s market anyway, because nobody would buy a week of stuff according to Afzal!

  • Maybe the farmers market can move into the pop-up space where Tacklebox/Bandolero/Whatever once resided… I live in Cleveland Park and rarely shop at Brookville, but now that they’re preventing me from proximate fresh farmers market meat and cheese (an Adas Israel market would be kosher, no?), I will boycott forever.

  • If there are two other markets less than a mile away, then why the complaint? You got pad and feet. Go use ’em. And, there’s nothing disgusting about protecting the local biz because it’s survival means more to the community as a whole than one’s personal need for ripe strawberries on Saturday. I give kudos to the ANC here. The market needs more though and better planning to accomodate all the issues stated above.

    • How about you let the community decide that on their own and let them vote their dollars for what they want and what they find valuable? You don’t know what the community needs/wants anymore than I do. Let the people decide.

  • Ms. Afzal
    Ever thought that with a farmers market offering fresh produce people actually may be more inclined to shop at Yes and Brookville instead of leaving the neighborhood to get sundries and fresh produce at say Whole Foods?
    Glover Park has a farmers market directly across from Safeway – its still very busy, same for Adams Morgan and Palisades.
    I understand landlords allowing a business to have a monopoly in a development (one coffee shop or one dry cleaner) but the ANC should not be in the role of supporting monopolies.
    Cleveland Park needs more vitality to support local businesses and reinvigorate the development around Conn and Porter – not less.
    Get out of the way and let progress happen.

    • Agreed. My first impression of Brookville was that they had terrible produce. Among my observations was that their apples taste like an old man’s halitosis, which I believe indicates that their storage areas need cleaning. As a result, I trek to Giant or TJ’s because I know I will be unable to complete my shopping trip satisfactorily at Brookville. Judging from the number of car-less friends who jump at the chance to ride with me to other grocery stores, I think I am not alone in feeling that Brookville leaves a lot to be desired.

      If I could get my produce right outside of Brookville, then I’ll no longer travel outside of the neighborhood for my groceries. Furthermore, if Brookeville steps up their produce department in response to competition, then they may win me back as a customer.

      I do not think we have a God-given right to farmers markets anywhere the organizers want, but I think the objection to this proposed market is short-sighted and leads to a net negative for the neighborhood.

  • I think all the comments carrying on about competition and communism are pretty funny, considering that the farmer’s market would exist on public property, which is itself a public subsidy. If the farmer’s market can compete in an open market with Brookland they surely are free to locate commercial space and open up shop.

    I love farmers markets but calling this protectionism is ridiculous.

    • Except that reasons one and two were all about protecting Brookville. Hell, she even said, ” I didn’t want to contribute to the pressure Brookville is already feeling[.]” How is that not protectionism?

      • Because Brookville pays lots and lots of taxes to be where they are. The farmers market could rent half the parking lot in that shopping center across the street if they think it would be profitable. Or they could negotiate space in one of the vast parking lots of nearby apartment buildings. Lots of options.

        Because 2 metro stops away is Dupont Circle farmers market. And because Brookville actually has nice produce. I don’t know where it comes from – but the whole locavore thing has gone nutty anyway. You are all destroying much more of the world by using a smartphone (rare earth minerals etc.) than by buying acorn squash from a non-local source.

        • Those are all reasons that you think protecting Brookville is a good idea. But to deny that her motivation here is largely to protect Brookville is just silly, and contradicted by what she said.

  • I don’t live in Cleveland Park and am unfamiliar with Brookville so I’m not commenting on whether there should be a farmer’s market.

    I do call b.s., though, on the argument, which I’ve heard in many cases, that a store has “literally opened up and stayed open during a blizzard” and other such arguments. Just to be clear, store owners are in business to make money, and savy owners recognize that being open during a blizzard is a good way to sell things. I’m not denigrating them for that. Just saying that they’re not being benevolent.

    Ultimately, farmer’s markets can’t take the place of brick and mortar stores, which would be wise to make sure their produce is “farmer’s market fresh.”

    • +1. Supporting a neighborhood business is great and all, but praying the owner for making decisions that drive profit is over the top. I wouldn’t want to see anything happen to Brookville, but I don’t think a farmer’s market would drive it out if business.

  • I have no skin in this game – I don’t live near Cleveland Park and would be unlikely to patronize a market there. But I am familiar with the decisions and pressures a farmers market bring to a community.

    I know for a fact that a good farmers market can dramatically cut into a supermarket’s produce sales. One supermarket near me said that their produce sales are off by over 25% during the summer months now versus before the local farmers market opened. This is good for farm market vendors, good for people who want fresher produce and bad for the supermarket which has a different logistics chain than the farmers.

    Farm markets can draw people to an area boosting non-produce sales. A coffee shop near my “local” farm market says business has increased dramatically on market days since the market opened.

    Most farm markets are not open year round and even where they are, they do not offer everything a supermarket does. Opening a farm market in Cleveland park might (note *might*) drive one or more local supermarkets out of business. In which case you’d gain in seasonal fresh produce but lose in the other things the supermarket offers.

    Lastly (sorry for the long post), I do not know what it is but, just like any other type of business, there is a limit to the number/density of farm markets an area can support. Before starting a new market in Cleveland Park, they should assess whether it is (a) needed and (b) there is support (customers) to support it. I’ve seen some hugely successful start-up markets (Bethesda Central Farm Market for example) and I’ve seen some pathetic efforts which folded pretty quickly because they had neither the vendors, customers or management to support it.

  • Ah ha! So this is why Cleveland Park retail is half empty! Ridiculous ANC commissioners who bend to any NIMBY. I have never heard of a temporary/intermittent farmers market putting a full service grocery store out of business. And I’m sure the disadvantage of losing 4 Parking spots in the residential areas greatly outweighs the benefits to the same neighborhoods of fresh local produce delivered via a farmers market. Cleveland park deserves its retail mediocrity for having commissioners like this.

  • I am OK with this.

  • I lived in Cleveland Park for two years and only shopped at Brookville out of necessity. Sure, they have “fresh” produce, cheese, and meats… but at prices you’d find at a NYC bodega. IMO, a farmer’s market would be welcome addition to the neighborhood, adding even more vibrancy and sense of community. The way people connect to vendors at farmer’s markets is unlike any connection you’d see in Brookville, and it really is a special thing.

    I didn’t hear any noise about the over-saturation of Tex-Mex in Cleveland Park (Alero, California Tortilla) when Chipotle wanted to move in. This sounds so ridiculous and shady. Ugh.

    • There were people on the listserv who complained about the Chipotle when it was announced precisely because it was too similar to Cal Tort and Alero. Seriously.

  • I’m amazed that anyone shops at Brookville. Why don’t Cleveland Park residents just do their grocery shopping at the brand new Giant on Wisconsin that opened ten years ago . . . oh, wait. Never mind.

  • I don’t buy the competition argument at all — Cleveland Park is upscale enough that most people who want farmers market produce already go out of their way to shop at either Dupont or another farmers market anyway. The question as to whether another market is needed when there are several in the area already is a valid one, but it should be left up to the market owners to either succeed or fail on the merits of their business.

  • What a stupid argument. Brookville survived for years with Magruder’s a block away, and Magruder’s was open every week for more than just a few hours.

  • She shouldn’t have made Brookville her first reason — I suspect she was trying to ground it in a concern for a local small business, which is something that resonates with CP residents.

    The number one reason why this farmer’s market was a dumb idea is that the neighborhood doesn’t need a damn farmer’s market. There are plenty of other options. The whole proposal struck me as a sort of yuppy “Me-too!-ism”…

    I lived in CP for 7 years. To not paint with too broad a brush, those who are deeply involved in neighborhood affairs are the very picture of elite NIMBYism in this city. The reason that a lot of those store fronts were vacant for so long despite restaurants wanting to open there was because of “concern” that the neighborhood was turning into a rowddy nightlife district. Seriously. Cleveland Park. A nightlife district. Lookout U Street.

    Nobody would have gone to a Farmer’s Market in Cleveland Park other than wealthy people that live within 3-4 blocks of that strip of Connecticut. And if they want it so bad, they can go down to DuPont.

  • I live in what is now Brookfield Park.

    I had no idea that the same seniors that cannot leave the 500 foot radius around their home were now able to jog up to Brookfield during a massive snowstorm that was well publicized days before arrival.

    I, too, enjoy paying $6.00 for milk in store that has not been renovated in 30 years, but I do not see why a stand selling corn is such a threat to the quasi monopoly that caters, apparently, almost exclusively to seniors.

    Finally, if all these groups are so dependant on Brookfield, how could Walgreens and CVS be threats? Could these groups, gasp, go to all the stores?

    At least Afzal has the guts to post her reasoning.

  • Time to boycott Brookville. This will teach them a lesson. Nowhere else have I seen such a crazy excuse to prevent a business from setting up shop. This is clearly an unfair practice. If I were the manager of the farmer’s market, I would file a law suit against the ANC immediately.

  • Maybe about 3-4 years ago, Cleveland Park blocked Trader Joe’s application based on the store requiring deliveries 7 days a week. I called bluff on it then, (I used to work for the company), but in this light, it sure seems like some other elements were at play.

    As others have said, how could the farmers market not help the CP community as a whole by bringing in more foot traffic? You buy your produce at the farmers market, and then pick up your other necessities at yes and brookville? If Brookville knows produce sales will slump in advance they can scale back and buff up some other areas in the market. After all, it wasn’t that long ago when Brookville, Magruders and Yes all existed there!

  • As a Cleveland Park resident, this is ridiculous. Besides Afzal, other ANC members have cited Brookville as the main reason for blocking the farmer’s market. I’m not sure if we’re shopping at the same Brookville, but the supermarket has horrible customer service and often sells expired food. Their produce section is abysmal and fruit bought from there often goes bad the next day. Other neighborhoods have grocery stores and farmers markets and both do quite well. Maybe a farmers market would stop people like myself and other Cleveland Park friends from taking our grocery shopping business to Whole Foods or farmers markets in other neighborhoods where we could get reliable produce.

    Also, the ANC didn’t stop the FOUR nail salons or the THREE tex-mex places from opening citing fears of competition. This is ridiculous.

  • Do they really need the ANC’s blessing to proceed? Maybe they need to go above these shortsighted NIMBYs and talk to DC Council.

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