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.”