EASTON, Pa. - The Easton Farmers' Market made Scott Park its temporary home to adhere to social distancing guidelines when COVID hit. Now, some city leaders want to keep it there, while certain businesses in Centre Square aren't on board.
The organizers of Easton Farmers' Market say the interest in buying locally-grown food during the pandemic has soared, which has prompted growth for the market. They say both vendors and customers have enjoyed the spaciousness of Scott Park.
"It was just a happy accident that we ended up here during COVID," said Megan McBride, the director of the Easton Market District at the Greater Easton Development Partnership.
Market sales have increased by 20% over the last two years. 2,000 customers go to Scott Park each Saturday.
While the market's stay there was supposed to be temporary, Mayor Sal Panto and several council members admit the pros of making it permanent are adding up.
McBride says moving back would actually hurt farmers.
"A lot of our vendors would have to cut the square footage of their spaces in half," said McBride. "They would definitely see a decline in sales."
She adds the park is safer since it's away from vehicle traffic, and gives vendors a place to put cold storage vehicles.
But what about the foot traffic the market brought downtown?
Businesses, like The Carmelcorn Shop, say they've noticed that decline, and prefer the market to return to the square.
"We don't even open until 12 on a Saturday because there's nobody around to open any earlier," said April Khalil, the owner of smARTivities. "It has hurt business for us since they did move down."
State Rep. Robert Freeman wants the market to remain where it's been since 1752.
"Maybe one of the options would be to look at having the Farmers' Market maybe two days a week," said Freeman. "One along the river front on Saturday, and perhaps another time in the week back in Center Square. At one time, the Farmers' Market was in operation three times a week."
He remembers the efforts to revive the market back in 2003, when it was down to only one vendor.
"Having it in Center Square was critical as a way of drawing people back downtown," said Freeman.
The Greater Easton Development Partnership has been trying to do tours that leave from the Farmers' Market and bring people downtown Saturdays. It has also launched a market rewards program to keep people moving throughout the city.
"One of the things that we've discussed with the Greater Easton Development Partnership is doing other events in the circle on Saturday mornings, so whether it's concerts or art in the circle, flea market," said McBride.
Organizers point out that two major developments, the Confluence and the Commodore, are going up at each end of the park, so the market staying where it is now would provide a shopping experience between them.
A decision isn't imminent, since renovations will be underway in the square in the new year.