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May 9, 2012 1:26 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Merchant Gets Booted From Westhampton Beach Farmers Market

May 9, 2012 1:37 PM

The Greater Westhampton Chamber of Commerce has decided not to allow Westhampton Beach businesses to set up shop at its farmers market, and that decision has angered at least one local merchant.

Erin Finley, the owner of Sydney’s “Taylor” Made Cuisine on Main Street, said it is outrageous for the chamber to exclude local businesses from making money at the market, which is held every Saturday in the spring and summer in the municipal lot near Mill Road in Westhampton Beach. Last Saturday, which was the market’s opening day, Ms. Finley said she was allowed to participate by sharing a table with another vendor, Steve Price of East Quogue, the owner of Dora’s Gourmet, who rents space at the market.

“I don’t understand it,” Mr. Price said of the policy change. “It seems to me that it is more personal than business.”

On Tuesday, Ms. Finley, who was selling pico de gallo, guacamole, fresh tortilla chips, mango salsa and biscotti on Saturday, said she received a call from Mr. Price, who sells duck, salad dressings and prepared meals, saying that the chamber contacted him and told him that Main Street businesses are no longer allowed to have stations set up at the market.

“I think it is outrageous that a chamber, whose bylaws are to support local businesses, is now creating a jurisdiction rule that never existed before,” said Ms. Finley, a former member of the chamber who is now the president of another business group, called the Westhampton Beach Alliance of Merchants. “I would love to know what their reasoning is.”

Chamber President Dwayne Wagner said this week that a decision was made in April to prohibit all Westhampton Beach businesses—not just those along Main Street, as being alleged by Ms. Finley—to participate in the farmers market in order to shorten the wait list for those vendors wishing to participate. The market now features 43 vendors­, the maximum allowed, and no other Westhampton Beach businesses are currently participating, Mr. Wagner noted. He said he did not know how many vendors are now on the waiting list.

“Historically, there have not been applications by village vendors,” said Mr. Wagner, explaining that most local shops are within walking distance to the market. He added that the foot traffic generated by the market helps boost business for all local stores.

“Basically, the idea of the farmers market with the board has historically been to allow businesses and products that are not sold on Main Street into the area,” Mr. Wagner said. “As a result, consumers who want products and would not have come to Westhampton otherwise are coming to the area, and we end up benefitting Main Street merchants by increasing foot traffic in the area.”

Mr. Wagner also noted that, in the past, most village merchants, particularly those with shops on Main Street, have not shown interest in participating in the farmers market, which is now in its seventh year, due to the proximity to Main Street.

“I am all for the farmers market itself,” Ms. Finley said. “But I have issues with it competing with local vendors.”

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The Westhampton Chamber of Commerce is a failed organization and an embarrassment to the Village of WHB. They have done nothing to promote viable businesses in town. They are old, boring, and in the way.

Ms. Finley runs one of the few successful business in the village. She has exposed the incompetence of the Chamber on numerous occasions and formed an alternative, and far more successful community model.

The chamber is acting like a jealous adolescent who is trying to get back ...more
By Steven (113), Westhampton on May 11, 12 10:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
I suspect that Ms. Finley's starting up an "alternative and far more successful community model" may have something to do with the Chamber's animus toward her.

Poke the beehive? Don't whine if you get stung.
By Frank Wheeler (1774), Northampton on May 11, 12 2:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
A local merchant who keeps a business open year round deserves better support from the Chamber.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on May 11, 12 11:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
Have to agree with Steven, Erin is a real anchor of main street, open year round and the best food and lunch specials around. I don't know what the Chamber is thinking. I hope the Village Trustees are looking into the Chamber's actions.
By Sug Tonmi (25), southampton on May 11, 12 6:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
You go Erin. The Farmer's Market spaces should be available to any business, local or not, that sells fresh produce, fish, meat, baked goods, etc... For any organization to say that a local vendor is not allowed a space is a case of restraint of trade and unfair trade practice. Mr. Wagner, an attorney, should realize this and now be afraid of a lawsuit against the Chamber. I'm sure Erin has friends that are attorneys that would love to put the Chamber in its place. I say, "Go for it".
By bobalooey (45), East Quogue on May 12, 12 2:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
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