Up in flames

It was a Thursday afternoon in July just like any other. Vendors were setting up for a regular day at Grimsby Farmers’ Market on Main Street when a thick smoke began to rise from a building at the east end of the street.

Market manager Michelle Seaborn contacted police immediately and the fire department arrived within minutes. “We initially thought that the fire was well contained so by 2:30 the market was in full swing,” remembers Michelle. About half an hour later the fire unexpectedly spread to a second building. “The smoke forced us to make the decision to close the market,” said Michelle.

Within 20 minutes, every vendor was packed up and off the road. “It was wonderful to see how vendors helped each other to get their canopies, tables and a full array of products packed up and removed from the street.”

“The extent of the fire was not felt until the next morning when the shells of three buildings were all that remained.”

In total, four businesses were destroyed by the blaze and one apartment owner became homeless. Main Street was closed and would not reopen until the buildings were demolished and the area was declared safe by the fire marshal. (Read the news article here.)

Grimsby Farmers’ Market had become homeless.

Michelle to the rescue

Michelle and her team looked for a temporary location. With the help of Grimsby Parks and Recreation, the market set up in a municipal parking lot. Michelle said this process ran as smoothly as possible thanks to her team – and amazing vendors. “I was so pleased to see how well we all worked together.”

Good news and bad news

The new location offered lots of free parking, easy accessibility, and due to the change in location, attracted new customers who wouldn’t have visited the market on Main Street. The downside, Michelle said, was that regular customers who used to walk to the market could no longer reach it. When surveyed, vendors reported that sales were down about 40-60% at the new location.

The return home

Six weeks later, at the end of August, the market returned to Main Street.

“The only word that describes the atmosphere of that return is synergy; merchants came into the street to welcome us back, people were smiling again, music returned to the market, people came out to meet their friends and neighbours, people hugged, babies in strollers were everywhere, and dogs were being walked.  The street was alive.  We were truly back home!”

The relationship between community and market

The remarkable relationship between the market and Main Street merchants was even more apparent after the fire. “The outpouring of support from the community was amazing,” Michelle said. “We have a fabulous customer base that supported the market throughout the change in location and welcomed us back with open arms.”

Advice from Michelle

Michelle said she hopes no one else finds themselves in this position, but offered up some advice just in case: “Be creative and stay fluid. Even though emergencies can be very stressful, just take it one step at a time. Come up with solutions as you need them.” For example, Michelle made sure that the bigger vendors set up with a smaller footprint in order for all the vendors to fit at the temporary location.