Mitch Deschatelets wishes he could recover every vendor’s loss.
But the North Bay Farmers’ Market just can’t afford that.
The market chairman was responding to criticism from local artisans who want a refund from the nearly $700 they paid up front to sell their wares at the winter market at the North Bay Mall.
Food vendors and producers are considered essential and were allowed to attend the market every Saturday.
“It would be nice to recover everyone’s loss, but we just can’t,” Deschatelets said Tuesday morning.
“They (artisans) paid for the winter market in the amount of $632.80 – we have two fees – pay as you go and the seasonal fee.”
Out of the 28 winter market days, artisans attended 17.
“When they sign a contract there’s no guarantee of a refund. We know they’re struggling, so we decided to give them back $62.15 out of remaining days they couldn’t attend. The cheque has been sent in the mail.”
Deschatelets said he has heard from two or three struggling vendors.
“Two or three artisans did reach out and we did inform them that a decision would be made after April” pertaining to their refund.
“It’s been a tough go for the market. We’ve been operating in the negative and to be sustainable we can’t keep operating in the red.”
Deschatelets said the farmers market swallowed the losses last year in the hope things would get back to normal over the spring and summer.
“Now we have more lockdowns than we did last year,” he said, adding the market posted a $14,000 loss to the end of October.
According to unaudited financial statements for the North Bay Farmers’ Market ending Oct. 31, the market had $50,357 in revenue and $65,165 in expenses.
The largest expense was rent at $21,810.
The statements also show net assets at the beginning of the year worth $89,933, which are now around $78,000.
The loss was attributed to a variety of factors, such as not having as many vendors, closing the winter market earlier than expected, signage, the cost of paying extra rent and keeping distances between vendors, forcing the market to double the amount of space it needed for both winter and summer markets.
Deschatelets said the market board has made some changes for the coming spring, summer and fall market near the North Bay Museum.
“We’re hoping for things to come back to normal, but this is a country-wide problem. We understand non-essential businesses have been struggling, it’s been very tough with the added restrictions and the cost of operation. Some are suffering greatly for this.”
The farmers’ market board announced some changes to assist those struggling.
“This coming summer, we did make the decision that non-essential vendors will not get charged an up front seasonal fee – they will pay as you go, so there’s no stress on them,” Deschatelets said.
He said artisans will now have the option to pay $35 per market. After they attend 10 times, they will no longer have to pay the fee.
“It’s been a tough go. Nobody knows how long it will take to get back, but the good news is that we’re a full house May 22” when the spring market opens, Deschatelets said.
He added that if there is any good news coming out of the pandemic it is that there is even a stronger push to eat local and support local.
“It’s encouraging,” Deschatelets added.