WICKER PARK — Rainy weather, competition from other markets and a lack of marketing led to low attendance and poor sales for the 14 vendors present at the opening day of the Wicker Park Farmers Market Sunday.
Located in the park at 1500 N. Damen Ave. — between Wicker Park Avenue and LeMoyne Street — the market runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday through Oct. 27.
Though the market has attracted a small and loyal following, in recent years it has suffered from dwindling attendance, vendors and shoppers say.
After a five-year run, Lisa Thompson from Blue Sky Bakery & Cafe has decided to leave Wicker Park and focus on a Wednesday Logan Square market and Saturdays at Printer's Row.
"We did Wicker Park [market] for five years and the sales went down for five years. ... It's too bad, it's a beautiful park. I'm not sure if more people are going to Logan or other markets," Thompson said.
After participating in the Wicker Park Farmers Market for the past two years, LouAnn Robinson of Jack Country Meats has decided to pull out this year, too.
"We would have done it if we had people available [to help], but we will be at Logan Square and Green City Market as well as our suburban stops," Robinson said.
Robinson said she "finds it interesting the city still has us listed" as being part of the Wicker Park Farmers Market, especially since the confusion prompted one of her regular Wicker Park customers to go looking for her Sunday.
"One customer came down to Logan and said she had been looking for us at the Wicker Market," Robinson said.
In addition to the Logan Square Market on Logan Boulevard from Milwaukee Avenue to Whipple Street, Jake's Country Meats can also be found at the Green City Market at 2732 N. Clark St. in Lincoln Park.
"We tried Wicker Park and it didn't work out," Nells said, adding that he believes the low attendance is due to the growth in other markets and the city having "a lot on their plate, not sure if they're understaffed or how that's working but it is unfortunate."
Cindy Gatziolis, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, said Monday that the city put out a brochure for the farmers markets and ran ads in the Tribune to promote the markets, though the bulk of promotion was left to the local communities.
"We say to the neighborhoods and community groups, 'This is your market, help us promote it.' We call it Hamburger Helper marketing with the markets," Gatziolis said.
Others vendors on a city-provided list from Gatziolis, who've been familiar faces at past markets such as Mint Creek Farms and newcomer dog treat vendor The Cookie Pup, were not at the market Sunday. Neither could be reached for comment.
At the close of the summer market in October, Roman Solowski, a representative for Mint Creek Farms, described Wicker Park as "one of the slower markets."
"Wicker Park is an eclectic 'hood. Maybe people don't cook as much here? I'm going to blame it on the economy," Solowski said previously.
Tamera Mark from Iron Creek Farm, who was not at the market Sunday, confirmed she would be at the market starting June 9 through the rest of the season.
"Iron Creek will absolutely be there, starting this Sunday. We love the Wicker Park market and all its wonderful customers. Besides we need to have our Sunday fish tacos at Big Star," Mark wrote in an email.
Though northwest suburban Huntley-based Garden Offerings was not present Sunday, there was a good reason: operators had no peonies to sell.
"We are short on product. Normally we have lots of peonies by this point, and we just started picking them Monday," Nancy Kapelak said.
One of the founding vendors at the Wicker Park Farmers Market, Nick Nicholson from Nichols Farm, referred to both the rainy weather and turnout Sunday as "crappy," but said he's "hopeful for better weather and more people" in future weeks.
The vendors confirmed by DNAinfo.com Chicago to be participating in the Wicker Park Farmers Market (as of June 2) are as follows:
Iron Creek Farm (vegetables, fruits), LaPorte, Ind.
Brunkow Cheese (cheese), Darlington, Wis.
Delightful Pastries (doughnuts, baked goods), Chicago
Fehr Brothers Farms (meat, eggs) Eureka, Ill.
Seedling Fruit (fruits, edible flowers, preserves), South Haven, Mich.
Garden Offerings (flowers), Huntley
River Valley Ranch & Kitchens (mushrooms, tamales, ravioli, sauces), Burlington, Wis.
Nichols Farm & Orchard (kale, lettuce, potatoes, herbs, vegetables), Marengo
Crepes Paname (sweet and savory crepes made onsite), Chicago
HighRise Baking Co. (artisanal breads), Chicago
Spencer's Jolly Posh British and Irish Foods (bangers, meats), Chicago
Simply Salsa (salsa), Homer Glen
Lou's Old Fashioned (Pickled vegetables, salsa), Chicago
Frank Farms (eggs, flowers), Berrien Center, Mich.
Pasta Pappone (Artisanal pastas)