Market loses its lease, will move by June

Pennsylvania Dutch shops to relocate after 11 years

Three sites being considered

Most merchants plan to set up at new location


March 09, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The telephone at Westminster's Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers Market kept ringing and customers stopped by the announcer's booth to ask whether it was true that the popular collection of vendors will be relocating after 11 years.

Not closing, but moving, by the second week in June, said Nancy Boltz, the market's advertising and public relations director. She said yesterday the market owner will choose soon from three locations - two in Carroll and one in Baltimore County. Boltz said she doesn't know where they are.

Over the years, rumors surfaced frequently that the market was leaving Crossroad Square Shopping Center at Routes 140 and 97.

"At least once a week someone would say, `I heard you were closing,'" Boltz said. "It sounds like a joke to say we lost our lease, but this time we did."

She said that the merchants were sad at first but now they are busily sketching plans for new stalls in a newer building. Boltz said the market is not the most desirable tenant for the anchor position in the highly visible shopping center because it is only open Thursday to Saturday.

A PETsMART store is expected to move into at least some of the space, said Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster's director of planning and public works.

Several customers at the market last week said they hoped it would relocate in Westminster but that they would travel to its new location.

That doesn't surprise Boltz, 64, of Lutherville, who retired from her family's Baltimore jewelry business and began selling jewelry as a vendor at the market about 1 1/2 months after it opened at the site that was once a Safeway grocery and a furniture store.

"I decided doing this was more fun," Boltz said. "It's like having a party every week. The people are not customers, they're friends." One weekend, she used a counter to record 5,000 visitors.

An all-you-can-eat Friday night dinner has drawn 10 to 15 members of one family, three generations' worth, every week, she said. One customer comes with a cooler from Gibson Island to buy meat from the Amish butcher known, oddly enough, for three generations as Cookie, said Boltz.

And there are plenty of cookie and cake bakers among the indoor market's 42 dealers.

In fact, food preparation fills much of the market space. And the heat from the baking and the chicken-roasting ovens along the back wall creates a problem with air conditioning, which should be improved in a move to a lower-ceilinged building, Boltz said.

The food is a draw for Sue Roach, 51, of New Windsor, an occasional patron who plans to visit the new market, if possible.

"I come for all the food - to eat and to buy," she said.

Foods include red velvet whoopee pie, pickled eggs, seven kinds of pretzels, more than 400 kinds of candy and a filled pumpkin roll, best cut with dental floss.

Vicki Mattingly, 49, said she's been coming to the market from Finksburg at least twice a month since it opened. "It has the best hand cream," she said, and "the Boyds Bears are a little cheaper." The bears are collectible items.

Recently, Mattingly said, she bought a service flag box for her 21-year-old son, who is due to return this month from Iraq.

As lunchtime neared, Engineer Duane Ludwig and another member of Westminster Fire & Hose Co. No. 1 parked their ambulance outside and stopped by for a quick lunch, as they do at least once a week.

"I hope they don't move too far away," said Ludwig, turkey sandwich in hand.

Boltz said 39 of the vendors plan to move with the market; the other three will retire. The oldest vendor is 90, and some Amish children who help their parents are younger than 10.

Other vendors offer nonedible items such as watches, wind chimes, wreaths, wagons, antiques and collectibles, and stained glass. Local photographer Phil Grout just opened a stall and is the market's newest vendor.

Sandy Hohne has been at the market from the beginning, offering dolls, repairs and restoration, handmade clothing and classes. She also makes custom porcelain dolls, their features and clothing copied from photographs.

"Show me a doll and I can tell how old you are," Hohne said, as she finished a lace-trimmed pink dress for a 50-year-old doll.

She began 12 years ago, offering doll-making classes in a Westminster motel room. She moved to a 7-by-14-foot stall when the market opened. She said she is looking forward to the move.

The market has served an economic function for some women, Boltz said. They came to make a little money, working three days a week, and have become successful small-business owners.

The number of vendors has decreased from about 70 since the market opened, Boltz said, but the stalls originally were small with no room to grow. The former furniture store already had been laid out into small display spaces, but water and electricity lines were inconveniently located.

"People are not always able to do what they want to do, so [the move] is an opportunity," Boltz said. "Everybody decided if we were moving, it would have to be bigger."

When they first got the news several weeks ago, Boltz said, "It was shocking and sad. All of us had the same feeling.

"I know all these people," she said of the customers. Because she wants to keep loyal customers, she plans to make the announcement of the new location a game: the Pennsylvania Dutch Treasure Hunt, complete with a $5 coupon - and a map to the new market.

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