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Members find Open Aire Market strong as ever

Going into its 15th season, Sequim Open Aire Market organizers seem optimistic that this season will continue the market's upward trend.

"We are sincerely enthusiastic and positive that it's going to be as good as it's ever been," said Connie Durant, market board member.

"It seems like there's a lot of new vendors coming to the market. It will be good for people who come. They'll see new things."

About 50 market members and newcomers attended the annual preseason vendor meeting on March 24 discussing budget, rent structure and general changes.

Season starts May 8

They are planning for the market's season that runs May 8-Oct. 23, with the possibility for an extended season if vendors want it.

Special events are planned for April 17 in conjunction with an Earth Day event and May 1 with the Irrigation Festival.

Market manager Lisa Bridge said they always are looking for new vendors, especially farmers, restaurants and food-ready-to-eat, e.g. stir-fried vegetables, and local poultry producers.

Durant said 80 to 90 percent of vendors return the following season.

Incentives are in place for those who are most active. If a vendor comes at least 17 times during a season, he/she receives a permanent spot in the market.

"People really value it," Bridge said.


Sequim Open Aire Market held its annual preseason gathering on March 24. Market manager Lisa Bridge, far right, and the board of directors led discussions including budget, fee increases and special events. The market begins its season May 8 on Cedar Street. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Market participation

Different levels of vendor participation are available: $25 for a three-week trial and full-time memberships for $50. They can join at any time in the season.

On Cedar Street, up to 70 vendors can participate, with a waiting list if all sites are filled.

The past few years, each season has totaled $250,000 in sales, Bridge said.

"Mark (Ozias, former market director) set a great example of how you can sustain and grow the market," said Ruthann Toney, a market board member.

More businesslike

Durant said in her three years as a member, she's been impressed with the professionalism at the market.

"It felt much more business-like and clean and organized," Durant said.

She anticipates that under Bridge's leadership, the market will continue at a high level.

Only two of the six board members are returning this year, so when evaluating the budget they decided to start fresh.

They raised rents slightly from 1-3 percent depending on the level of involvement.

"It is a slight increase but it's the best deal around," said Rene Eusbank, market member for Fresh Hats.

Now all vendors pay $10 and 5 percent of sales each Saturday.

"Those making the least were paying the most and vice-versa," Toney said.

"We needed to change that."

Job title change

At the beginning of budget restructuring, the board eliminated the market director position to create a new job with similar responsibilities.

"We recreated the position (of market manager) to make sure Lisa was in it," Durant said.

"She was always our choice. We did a lot of work to choose her (initially)."

From Feb. 18-March 8, the board worked to restructure the job while Bridge was temporarily laid off.

The board found a way to keep near the original agreement from when Bridge first was hired.

'Growing pains'

"Every organization experiences growing pains," Toney said.

"Once we have a consistent market every Saturday, then we'll have cash flow to pay her."

"The whole board is working hard, for which I'm grateful," Bridge said.

"I'm just glad things are moving forward. I enjoy the job and all the vendors I've met so far."

Following the resignation of on-site market manager Joe Irvin, the board decided to split the responsibilities between the market manager and volunteers.

Work for teens?

This saves 22 percent on the payroll budget, Durant said.

They are looking at a possible teen work program to lead the position but for now volunteers will help Bridge coordinate vendors, the community and the market booth.

Despite added responsibility, Bridge says her vision remains the same: to promote the market, get more people attending and children of all ages involved.

"I'm seeing a festive, events-filled market," she said.

Bridge is in communication with 4-H groups about participating and is looking to line up more youth projects, games and activities.

Sustains farms

So far, one youth vendor has signed on to sell and spin wool.

She believes the market has a lot to offer for all people in Sequim and on the North Olympic Peninsula.

"By attending, they are helping sustain farmers and showing the next generations that farming is viable," Bridge said.

"Also, there are some fantastic artists in our community and the market is an avenue to help them share their talents."

More details on Sequim Open Aire Market can be found at www.sequimmarket.com or by calling Lisa Bridge at 460-2668.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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