The Ashland Planning Commission has approved allowing the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market to open earlier in the spring and sell prepared foods on Saturdays at its downtown Ashland location — but debate over the changes exposed simmering tensions among brick-and-mortar stores that disagree over whether the market helps or hurts their businesses.
About 20 people representing businesses ranging from Standing Stone Brewing Co. to TreeHouse Books to Mix Sweet Shop signed a petition in support of the market.
But people representing 15 businesses petitioned for the market to run on Sunday, not Saturday, and be limited to only produce and other agricultural products. Those businesses included Paddington Station, Hanson Howard Gallery and several other clothing, book, jewelry and art stores.
The Planning Commission voted this week to allow the market to open in March rather than May. The market will still run through November and operate on Saturdays.
The market will be allowed to sell agriculturally-based crafts, such as beeswax candles and wool yarn, but other crafts, such as pottery and cutting boards, likely will be banned. All crafts previously had been barred, although some vendors have been selling items like beeswax candles, pottery and yarn.
Vendors can sell prepared foods — but not hot prepared foods — under the new rules, which could go into effect at the end of July if the Planning Commission finalizes the changes and no one appeals.
Back in 2011, city officials approved allowing the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market to close Oak Street on Saturdays and operate there. The market is also open with a larger number of vendors and products on Tuesdays at the National Guard Armory in Ashland.
A number of restrictions were originally imposed in an effort to reduce direct competition between brick-and-mortar stores and the downtown market. The market was only supposed to sell fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, bedding plants, meat, eggs, cheese, bread, pasta, dog bones and jam.
Read more in Saturday's Daily Tidings.