Mother nature gave Pulaski a break from periods of heavy rain Tuesday, just in time to offer some sunshine for the opening of The Marketplace, Pulaski’s new farmers’ market. Operated by Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, it is in its first season.
By and large, both vendors and organizers were happy to see not only the break in the rainy weather, but also to find the market back in a familiar setting at the historic Pulaski Railway Station on South Washington Avenue. Seven vendors have signed on for the season, leaving plenty of time and space for more growers, producers or crafters to join them in the stalls tucked under the shelter the station provides.
“I think it looks nice,” said Robin Carroll, Marketplace vendor. “It’s nice and full. We’ve got a lot of room to expand, and we’ve got food and music. So yeah, it looks nice to look down and see all the vendors lined up.”
Carroll and her husband, David, own Chestnut Ridge Berry Farm in Max Meadows and primarily grow blueberries, but they also offer other fresh produce when it’s in season. Robin was happy to demystify the origin of loofah sponges for curious passersby, surprising some with the fact they can be grown in your own backyard.
“Everybody always thinks it’s a sea sponge,” Carroll said.
Meanwhile, market patrons could be drawn in by the aromatic offerings of Mystic River Lavender and Herbs from Riner. They were selling 15 varieties of herbs and lavender soaps, lotions and creams for the first time in a Pulaski market.
“It looks like it’s started out pretty good,” said Keith Mileski, who was operating his booth for his wife, Janice. “We live in Riner and we just wanted to try a little different farmers’ market. We do some other markets and we just wanted to add this to our group that we already sell to.”
Elizabeth Whitman was offering asparagus and a few kinds of herbs for sale. She was happy to see more vendors at the market.
“I think a lot of credit goes to Peggy White with the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce for getting a lot of other vendors involved,” said Whitman. She and her sister, Martha Biggars, are looking forward to seeing how the market develops over the season, and they laughed as they said they’d like to see more sunny and warm weather along the way as well.
“I’m glad to be back at the train station,” said Tammy Davis, with Daisy’s Kitchen, offering up sourdough bread and various other baked items. “I think they’ve got a lot of good ideas—new ideas—and it looks like the Chamber has done a lot of work and already with just the first day it looks really hopeful. I’m just looking forward to a good season of a lot of new vendors, a lot of new people being down here, and looking forward to The Marketplace growing.”
Those already mentioned were joined by 5th generation Wythe County beef producers Mike and Daniel Cassell, of Cassell Family Farms; Radford artist Kendall Kessler, who sells her art in 21 U.S. states, Washington D.C., Australia, Canada and Germany, and Judith Peele, who vends blacksmith items, chicken and duck eggs, and various jams.
On hand for a wine tasting was Barrel Cave Wines, a Fairlawn winery offering samples of a handful of varieties of wine. Delicious food was also prepared and served on-site by chef James Porter, of Draper Mercantile’s Blue Door Café, and the delightful music of Jazz guitarist Bill Adams provided a fitting ambiance for the stream of patrons.
White, the Chamber’s executive director, was happy with the turnout and excited to see what the next several weeks will bring.
“I’m pleased with the support we’re getting,” White said, as she looked around at those who had stopped by during the break in the weather for the opening evening. “It’s nice to get the support from people who come out and show an interest in what we’re trying to do, and hopefully we can grow this. We’re going to grow this so big that they’re going to have to park all the way at the other end of the (Maple Shade) parking lot.”
White said every week is planned to be an event, with demonstrations and information available from master gardeners, many more entertainers and crafters, and of course she hopes for additional vendors as The Marketplace builds a regular clientele.
As luck would have it, the sun shone through the first hours of the evening. And as the last few vendors were packing up around the 8 p.m. closing, the sky darkened and a shower began to move in, leaving the opening day of The Marketplace with a seemingly successful, sunny beginning, right up until the final few minutes.
The Marketplace will be open every Tuesday evening through Sept. 24, from 4-8 p.m. A grand opening and ribbon cutting event is slated for Tuesday, May 21.