Lenoir Downtown Farmers Market adds indoors location

Aug. 01, 2013 @ 07:27 AM

Starting today, the downtown Lenoir property once occupied by Venti’s Casa Bookstore and Café will get a new lease on life as an indoor farmers market open four days a week.

The Lenoir Downtown Farmers Market will offer produce, meat and other local food and goods Wednesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 912 West Ave. Market board members will staff the store on a volunteer basis; there are no paid employees. The outdoors farmers market will continue to run in the nearby parking lot at 1001 Harper Ave. on Saturdays.

The indoors market has already drawn 22 vendors so far, compared to 14 for the regular outdoors market on Saturdays, market president Jeff Crane said.

Venti’s Casa, the independent bookstore that once occupied the spot, closed in May. Owner Debra Venti is a market board member and is renting the space to the market, helping fulfill a plan that has been in the works for more than a year, co-market manager Kevin Hagan said.

“So many people drive to Boone for fresh produce,” Hagan said. “There’s no need when we have so many talented people here.”

So now, there’s a small, vinyl sign flapping in the window of the former coffee shop, advertising the new indoor market. There may eventually be a mural on the glass, Crane said.

On Wednesday, as board members and vendors prepared for the indoor market’s opening, tables were lined with stacks of peaches and corn, and jars of homemade barbecue sauce. The market has also stepped up its offerings from meat vendors, so in addition to produce and other farmers-market staples it will offer beef, lamb, poultry and pork.

Books still line the walls – the market will sell them at discounted prices. And coffee is still being served at the bar in the rear of the store.   

Organizers hope the indoor market will be more convenient for customers and vendors alike. They’re envisioning more opportunities for shoppers to stop in, and more flexibility for farmers, who often have to work on Saturdays or set aside weekends for selling produce at their own farms, Hagan said.

“With the farmers market open four days a week, that’s going to give people a better way to get fresh goods and to keep their dollars local,” Hagan said.

Plans currently call for keeping the indoors market open in the winter, when the outdoor farmers market is closed.

And organizers hope to eventually extend the market’s hours to five days a week, adding Tuesdays.

“It all depends on demand,” Hagan said.