SKIPPACK — If you’re a farmer’s market fanatic you probably know the familiar Saturday refrain all too well: so many markets, so little time.
From Collegeville to Upper Merion, Lansdale to Lancaster, it’s a whirlwind of wonderful market choices out there — all operating on the first full day of the weekend, during the same hours.
Luckily, entrepreneur Jason Brown had a better idea when he set about rescuing Skippack Farmer’s Market from certain oblivion.
He knew Sunday mornings weren’t working for the market, which had been sputtering to a standstill under different leadership the last few years. So, rather than toss it into the Saturday farmer’s fray, he crafted a fresh, Friday late-afternoon-into-dusk scenario that is drawing a following as eclectic as the market offerings.
“The market was really going to the wayside on Sundays, and rather than see that happen, I took it over,” said Brown, chatting in between directing vendors to their spots on a recent Friday afternoon.
The market’s salvation story began when Brown, a food truck impresario known to weekday lunchtime crowds in Skippack as an innovative purveyor of gourmet hot dogs and sausages with his traveling roadside show, Love Hot Dog Company, met with real estate mogul Dave Markel.
Markel, who owns the parking lot next to Chiaro’s Pizzeria, near the intersection of Route 113 that serves as the market’s home, favored a Saturday market, but eventually saw it Brown’s way, and Skippack Farmer’s Market — or, as it’s known on Facebook, Skippack Farmers Market Food Truck Pod — was reborn on Fridays.
Now the after-work hours that jump-start the weekend have taken on new importance for those who crave their just-picked sweet juicy plums, farm fresh eggs, easygoing comfort food, homemade pastries and freshly cut bunches of sunflowers.
As visitors to a famous Friday-morning-to-night venue, Green Dragon in Ephrata, may know, strolling through an outdoor twilight market in summer can be a magical experience.
In a place like Skippack, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be downright enchanting.
Clearly, Brown has his hands full reinventing the market as he applies the same sincere ingenuity and buzz-making strategies that turned his hot dog truck into a local phenomenon.
Many folks will recognize these mainstays of the farmer’s market circuit, and a few surprises, who are on board with the Skippack Farmer’s Market: Compassionate Joe Coffee; McDougall’s Irish Victory Cake; Jubilee Hill Farms, organic produce and herbs; Jenny & Frank’s Artisan Gelato; Lavinia’s Cookies; Behmerwald Nursery; Delphinium Bakery; Alchemy Crystals; Freeland Market; Sunny Slope Farms of Lancaster; Corropolese Bakery; Black Walnut Winery; Fat Head Peppers; Baubles and Bags; Six Harmony Soap; Joyful Tiers; Mediterra; Longview Farm; Lemonade Brothers and Goshen Donuts of West Chester.
At $20 for a one-night space; $185 for half a season and $225 for a full season, vendors are waiting in the wings to bring their goods to Skippack Pike.
“We lowered the price to attract vendors, and we’re doing it,” Brown said. “We were able to get a lot of vendors from other markets because the market is at night and nobody does a night market. Friday is a great day because we’re able to draw people coming home from work, or on their way to the Jersey shore, or after happy hour or eating at one of the restaurants in town, when they decide to stop here.”
A tie-in with the town’s First Fridays promotion, when many shops stay open later, seemed like a natural fit as well, Brown said.
“We’re here every Friday, but it will be nice to have all the people who come here for First Fridays to discover us.”
Brown, who now runs a mélange of food trucks known as the Conspiracy Food Truck Crew, is inviting those mobile chefs to contribute their culinary talents to the market as well.
With the motto “Cultivating our community talent ” as the guiding spirit of the market, he also hopes to embrace different local businesses and non-profit groups, such as Harley’s Haven Dog Rescue, each week, at no charge.
“Getting the food trucks involved will bring more people here,” Brown said. “I’d like to bring local businesses, such as the computer guy in Skippack to promote his business. He wouldn’t go to a farmer’s market to sell computer repairs, but if I have him here one night promoting his business, a guy could see him and find out he’s right here in Skippack. I just want to promote the town and our local business community.”
Follow Gary Puleo on Twitter @Mustangman48.