'It's an experience': Opening day a success for Horton Market in St. Thomas, Ont.
ST. THOMAS, ONT. -- Eagerly awaiting the start of the outdoor Horton Farmer's Market in St. Thomas, Ont., customers were lined up at 8 a.m. Saturday.
"It's just so nice to be out," says Jim Waite.
Brian Leverton was anxious to pick up some fresh produce and say hello to some vendors.
"Small business has been hurting for 14 months, so nice to help out again," says Leverton.
The downtown market has been a tradition in the Railway City since 1843. However this is the first year under the umbrella of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
"We see the value in our agricultural community here in St. Thomas and Elgin County," says Sean Dyke, CEO of the St. Thomas EDC.
"This market has been here for so long it's really important for us to see it as a success. These are all small businesses that are trying to grow here in our community. It's our job as a board to support that".
Dyke says with tourism and the Small Business Enterprise Centre under the EDC they can be supportive to the small business vendors.
"We can really make this a cornerstone of the downtown and drive people and traffic to the downtown so that we can really grow this community," says Dyke.
Sean Dyke, CEO of the St. Thomas EDC on May 8, 2021. (Brent Lale/CTV London)
There were 25 vendors on opening day, and as the season gets rolling and more vendors' produce is ready, they will get up to 42 vendors for the Saturday morning market.
Harris Flower Farm was one of many vendors who sold out because of the big crowds on day one.
They went through 225 bouquet's of flowers with Mother's Day Sunday.
"Its normally busy after last year we didn't know how things were going to go, but it worked out well," says Mark Harris.
2020 was a bit of a roller coaster for the market. Council voted to close the market at year ago at this time, but reversed course a few weeks later with safety protocols in place.
This year, management went above and beyond in terms of safety measures.
"It's so that was very important to us that we were in fact doing even more than we needed to be doing in order for people to feel safe and be safe," says Vicki Asher, the market manager.
"For physical distancing we have the directional traffic, people spaced out as much as we can and masks are mandatory for those times when you are a little bit close."
The EDC is really pushing a community feel.
"We know this isn't a grocery store, right?," says Dyke.
"This isn't where you go just to pick up your your milk and eggs. This is somewhere you come to for an experience. And that experience needs to be warm and it needs to be community driven."
And so far so good according to those visiting Saturday.
" We picked up honey, veggies, bread and spring rolls for drive home," says Jamie Quai who loves the sense of community at the market.
"You can't walk five or six feet without seeing someone you know. It's great catching up with people you haven't seen in a long time, and with this lockdown, a familiar face every now and then is perfect."