Chris Quinlan would love to welcome more traffic to the Whistler Farmers Market on Sundays, but the truth is, there isn’t much room to cram anyone else in.
The longtime market manager said business has been booming throughout the summer, and while Quinlan doesn’t officially track sales numbers, he estimates pedestrian traffic is up 10 per cent on Sundays compared to last year.
“It’s been off the hook,” he said. “I think it’s on par with our busiest summer.”
Celebrating its 20th year in Whistler, the market started the summer with a record number of vendors, just under 80, Quinlan said. By Canada Day, that number had risen to 91, the market’s max capacity.
With little room for growth at the Sunday market, organizers have focused on ramping up animation, with added musicians, artists and street performers to engage guests. It also sets a higher standard for the type of vendors being considered, Quinlan noted.
“When we’re busy like this it just allows us to up the quality of our vendors,” he explained. “Every one of our vendors goes through a jury process now, even food vendors have to go through a tasting.”
A key priority for the market’s board of directors this year was growing the Upper Village’s Wednesday night markets, and with some vendors reporting as much as a 40-per-cent boost in sales over the last three summers, according to Quinlan, they’re well on their way to meeting that goal.
“We decided we wanted to really focus this year and the next couple years on the Wednesday market just because that’s really where the opportunity for growth is,” Quinlan said, “and it’s true to our mandate on the food side of things, and that’s worked out well this year.”
This summer also marked the first time the market could sell alcohol, thanks to recent changes to the province’s liquor laws that now allows certified producers to sample and sell their made-in-B.C. beer, wine and spirits at farmer's markets. Unsurprisingly, liquor sales have been steady as well.
“One of the wineries … said they sold more in a tasting (at the farmers market) in four hours than they did at a full-day tasting at a liquor store,” said Quinlan, who added that Whistler now serves as a model to other B.C. farmer’s markets with plans to begin offering alcohol for sale.
Aug. 27 will be the last Wednesday market of the year, from 3 to 7pm. Sunday markets continue through Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.
Visit www.whistlerfarmersmarket.org for details.