The organizers are relieved. Forced to move the market from Maple Street to a new downtown location because of social distancing requirements, they found that there was no drop in customer traffic. In fact, with just over 13,000 visitors, traffic actually increased by 32% according to figures provided by Diane Séguin, CEO of Marchés d’ici, the organization managing the market, and her two field co-ordinators, Armand Gaudet and Louise Lavallée. “The Town, its crews which set up the infrastructure, the Knowlton Pub and the Theatre, which lent space for parking and stalls, all contributed to this success and I thank them very much,” says Ms. Séguin, visibly delighted with the experience.
Producers / merchants clearly agree. Denis Mareuge of Owl’s Bread bakery: “We had significantly more business. Was it because of the location or because people weren’t travelling? I don’t know.” Yan Gordon of Les Potagers des nues mains: “I thought it was great. We had more customers. Why? Was it the new location? More space? I would like to see it continue next year.” Martin Brosseau of Les Tendres Bouchées, Mohamed Boujra of Divine Olive and Alison Marks of Fleurissima, all agree that it was a positive experience: “more visible displays,” “better traffic flow,” “enough room for trucks.”
Any negative comments? “We miss the fixed stalls,” says Brosseau. “One could make better use of the grassy area,” adds Marc Côté of Ô de Sève.
Customers’ reaction to the change has been more mixed. Louise would like rest areas in the shade, “with benches and parasols for waiting when it’s sunny,” she says. Christine misses the more intimate atmosphere of the old market whereas François likes the fact that there is more space. “It seems like there are more vendors,” he says. Christiane has reservations about traffic in the parking area. Pierre, meanwhile, is convinced that “the arrival of the market in downtown Knowlton has had a positive impact on the whole shopping district.”
The Theatre, which provided the site, has apparently benefitted as well. “It gave us much greater visibility,” points out board chairman Jean-Claude Mahé. “Lots of people discovered our building. This was a really positive experience for us. We’re ready to do it again next year.”
Translation: Brian McCordick