The Methow Makers Market will be allowed operate two Saturdays a month at Winthrop’s Confluence Park this summer, the Town Council decided last week, but that frequency may be revisited next year.
At last week’s council meeting, several downtown business and property owners asked the council to reconsider its decision to allow the market to expand from one to two days a month.
The “pop-up” market, which features local and regional artisans, is organized by Phoebe Rudd, a jewelry artist and salon owner. For the past few years the market has been set up in the park once a month during the summer. At an earlier meeting, the council approved Rudd’s request to expand to two Saturdays a month, May through September.
Nilsine Harris, owner of Shotgun Nellies, and Patsy Rowland, co-owner of the Winthrop Store, asked the council to review its earlier decision. They were joined in public comments and letters to the council by several other Riverside Avenue business operators who objected to the expansion of hours.
The commenters said the market infringes on public use of Confluence Park; isn’t exclusively limited to local vendors; may take parking away from other visitors; and is unfairly competitive with other downtown businesses, especially at the height of tourism season, without having to pay the same business license fees, sales and property taxes, utilities and other costs.
Doug Mohre, former owner of Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe, said such markets take revenue away from other businesses. “Where are these vendors in the middle of the winter?” he asked.
Council member Bill McAdow said he agreed with many of the comments but this was the first time he had heard them. He said the “timing is unfortunate” because the council already approved Rudd’s request. “I wish we had heard this earlier,” he said.
Harris said business owners have had concerns about the market in the past, but raised the issue this year because of the expanded hours. “We’ve had enough,” Rowland added.
Rudd, appearing via Zoom, told the council that some of her vendors also participate in the Methow Valley Farmers Market in Twisp on Saturdays, and the Winthrop Market on Sundays. As an artist, Rudd said, she also participates in local events such as Art Walk. As a business owner, she said, “I work in this town 365 days a year.”
Rudd said the town has never asked for a business license or for her to collect sales taxes, adding that “I totally would do it.”
Rudd said she has already invested in marketing material under the assumption that the market would be open twice a month.
McAdow said “it seems pretty crummy to change it now,” while acknowledging the concerns raised at the meeting. Council member Ben Nelson said the town had already made a decision and it would not be good policy to reverse it this year.
“We can’t conduct business that way,” he said. Nelson said the issue can be revisited next year if Rudd applies again. Council member Kirsten Vanderhalf agreed with Nelson.
Mayor Sally Ranzau encouraged business owners to make their views known next year if the request is renewed.