Seeks place among nation’s best – needs public support, votes
By Karen Carr Keefe
Senior Contributing Writer
The full court press is on!
The North Tonawanda City Market wants to be the top farmers market in the nation. And the market manager and city mayor are asking for the support of the market’s customers and fans to help it win.
The NT market has jumped to No. 1 in New York state, No. 1 in the Northeast, and, so far, fifth in the U.S. The farmers market contest is sponsored by the American Farmland Trust-Farmers Market Coalition.
NT City Market Manager Chris Delprince appealed to local residents: “We need all Western New Yorkers to vote and help make the NT City Market the No. 1 farmers market in the entire nation.”
“We can do this!” North Tonawanda Mayor Austin Tylec said.
To cast your vote, go to https://markets.farmland.org/market/north-tonawanda-city-market/ or visit www.ntmarket.org. The event has been running since June 20. Voting ends at the close of the day on Monday, Sept. 18.
Delprince calls the NT City Market at 310 Robinson St. “one of the real treasures in Western News York.” For 115 years, the NT City Market has drawn customers from across the Niagara Frontier and is one of the oldest and most popular open air and pavilion markets in Western New York. It is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The market is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NTcitymarket/.
Delprince attributes the market’s rapid climb to customer loyalty and enthusiasm.
“I think the community has just been following the market, and we’ve been doing so much that it’s created so much excitement,” he said.
Delprince – a nationally recognized retailer – is a believer that marketing builds momentum. He said improvements to the market since he began as manager last January have been steady and noticeable.
“It’s building like a snowball rolling down the hill – just getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “Everybody wants to help the market – the big transformation that we’ve made over there. I feel it, and that’s what I’m there for, right? – To market the market!”
Delprince has implemented a strategy to enhance the market’s appeal.
He said there were three main components of his plan: beautification, vendor variety and marketing. A key to implementing the transformation, he said, was the support of Tylec.
The first goal was to fix up the deterioration of the building.
“We painted the building and put the mural on it and created that beautiful Veterans Wall in the back,” he said.
Delprince learned from vendors that there had been a grant to beautify the market, but it had gone unused since 2018. He alerted City Hall and the mayor made sure sidewalks and paving were added, he said.
“The second was we wanted to make sure we had good product mix and variety at the market,” Delprince said.
He noted that, prior to his coming on board, the city had a different philosophy and wanted to get rid of the variety – sticking to just fruits and vegetables. Delprince recruited vendors to get the desired product mix, adding baked goods, wine and spirits, ethnic and popular prepared foods such as pierogi, empanadas, pizza, gelato, Asian food and Tomaso’s food truck; and expanded the offerings in flowering plants, fresh-cut flowers, meats, seafood, cheeses and even dog treats.
Under his direction, marketing was raised to a new level, he said. A logo was created for the first time; a webpage was launched and will be expanded this year; and events were added to draw crowds. These included an event where more than 300 kids planted flowers – donated by vendors – for their moms for Mother’s Day, NT Fall Fest, and Corn Fest.
Delprince said he brought in over $40,000 – in money or in-kind services – from the private sector to add to the $900 budget he had been allotted to fix up the market. Among those he credited for their assistance are Sherwin-Williams, Cortes & Sons Construction, David Chevrolet, mural artist Nicole Cherry, J. F. Krantz Topsoil & Nursery, and the farmers/vendors who bring their produce, pumpkins, flowers and more to the market.
“As you can see, it’s a whole collaboration of the community, the businesses, the market vendors – everybody coming together and, quite honestly, under the direction of the mayor, who really wanted to shine a light on that market and fix it up,” Delprince said. “The turnaround that we did so quickly got notice from the New York State Farmers Market Federation, and they asked me to come speak at their annual conference in the spring, which I did.
“A lot of the markets were struggling after COVID – especially the markets that were producer-only markets. That’s kind of where our market was trying to go, and I explained to them that, if you really want to support that model, you have to still have variety there.”
Last year, NT City Market ranked as the No. 2 Best Farmers Market in New York state and 13th best in the U.S. Winners receive a share of the $15,000 prize pool.
“This is much bigger than just North Tonawanda” Delprince said. “There’s a real sense of urgency to vote now because winning this and becoming the No. 1 farmers market in the nation will bring great honor and recognition to all of Western New York.”
The 15th annual America’s Farmers Market Celebration (AFMC) showcases the essential markets across the nation making a difference for farmers, ranchers and communities.
In addition to recognizing the top markets in each region of America, the AFMC will crown an overall “People’s Choice” winner as the top-endorsed market in the country.
A press release noted, “AFMC believes that every farmers market in America is special in its own way. Big, small, in cities, or rural towns, farmers markets nourish their communities while helping local farmers, food makers, and artisans thrive.”