Why the Hollywood Farmers Market closure cost vendors $175,000

On Sunday, workers at one of Los Angeles’ top bakeries suddenly had to move more than 300 loaves of bread and six sheets of focaccia away from its farmer’s market stand, but Andy Kadin of Bub and Grandma’s considers himself lucky. It could have been worse.

That morning a man shooting a gun and throwing objects from the balcony of a Hollywood apartment building caused one of Los Angeles’ largest and oldest farmers’ markets to close for the day, resulting in losses of around 175,000 $ for its farmers and food vendors. No one was injured and the suspect, Joseph De La Cruz, 42, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, is charged with seven counts, including felon possession of a firearm. and illegal possession of ammunition.

The event marked the first such closing in the Hollywood Farmers Market’s more than 30-year history. The single-day loss resulted in thousands of pounds of unsold goods and left sellers scrambling to recoup the sales they depend on every Sunday. After his pivots, Kadin estimates he lost $2,000 in bread sales; his particular scramble involved reaching out to a number of food donation organizations to eliminate unnecessary food waste.

“I think the most important thing, other than making sure everyone is okay, of course, is making sure the food we have doesn’t go to waste,” Kadin said. “That’s the #1 thing for us: As long as we’re operating and we’re okay with paying our payroll and rent, I don’t particularly care where the bread goes, as long as we let’s get somewhere.”

Two of Kadin’s employees were present on Sunday and heard gunshots only about 15 minutes after they began unloading Bub and Grandma’s stall. After being ordered to flee, they hid in the bread truck for about 45 minutes, unsure if it was safe to get out, before leaving the market and returning to the bakery.

Half of Bub and Grandma’s Hollywood Farmers Market sales are pre-orders; On Sunday, Kadin refunded all presale orders — about $3,000 — and immediately contacted some of the bakery’s restaurants, convenience stores and other retailers that serve his breads.

“These were products that we were selling at retail price in the market which we then had to wholesale, which is 30-40% less than what we would earn in the market, which is obviously a disappointment,” Kadin said. “And even with that, we only made up $800 of the $3,000 normal market making.”

Typically, the Hollywood Farmers Market only closes during major holidays, said Elizabeth Bowman, director of farmers’ market operations and acting executive director of Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA), who worked for the parent organization of the Hollywood Farmers Market for about a decade and helps run six markets. It was also closed during the height of the pandemic.

“We’ve had all kinds of situations with people — it’s just the nature of being on the streets and in Hollywood,” she said. “We arrive at the market and find everything and anything in this street [like] drug paraphernalia. We carry cat litter as we set up the market to cover human and animal feces and other odors. It’s really not uncommon to get into a bit of chaos, and so I can imagine that if the person had thrown furniture and stuff, it wasn’t necessarily super alarming.

The first SEE-LA staff member arrived around 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning to set up the street barricades; the rest of the team usually show up an hour later to clear the streets and vendors trickle in to set up shop. It wasn’t until the workers heard gunshots around 7:30 a.m. that they began to operate differently.

Bowman says the crew on site that day immediately ordered vendors to close their stalls and buyers and sellers to evacuate, which was also an LAPD directive. With the summer harvest at its peak, last weekend’s market was even more crowded with vendors than usual; some that specialize in summer-only produce are particularly dependent on the farmers’ market for their income.

SEE-LA receives a percentage of vendor sales each week to account for operating costs. Based on previous Sunday reports and what they gathered this week, Bowman collectively estimated a loss of around $175,000 in gross sales from over 250 vendors – and a loss of $16,000 to $17,000. for his employer – on the sole basis of the Sunday closing.

To help recoup these losses, SEE-LA launched an online fundraiser this week for the benefit of farmers and other market vendors as well as SEE-LA; at the time of writing, $6,295 had been raised of the $150,000 goal.

Finley Farms co-owner Christopher Finley said his family has been selling at Hollywood Farmers Market almost every Sunday for more than 16 years – and in that time they’ve never experienced such a dramatic market closure. The farm lost $4,000 in gross sales, but Finely says they all feel lucky no one was hurt.

On Sunday, Brandon Finley, Christopher’s brother, left the Santa Ynez farm around 4 a.m. to drive what Christopher estimated to be 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of heirloom, cherry, and Early Girl tomatoes; many varieties of lettuce; four kinds of melons; three types of onions; cucumbers; zucchini; blackberries; strawberries; raspberries and more in Hollywood, as he does every week. He set up the stall, was only able to sell for 30 minutes, then was told to pack for evacuation – and immediately returned to the farm with over three-quarters of their haul, losing money the day of the sale in the process.

“We’ve had a really good load with a lot of different products, new products coming in,” Christopher Finley said, “so I was eager to say, ‘Okay, we finally have some money-making stuff. money – oh wait, too bad.

Farmers markets represent 75% of Finley Farms’ business, with the Hollywood Farmers Market being one of four weekly markets at which it sells, in addition to wholesale restaurant accounts and the operation of a small farm stand on its land in Santa Ynez. That farm stand ended up being the Finleys’ saving grace this week, where many of last Sunday’s produce sold off to shoppers stopping in on Sunday and Monday.

“My wife and I were setting up our farm stand on site at our home, and with [the closure] in mind, we started playing the poor-me card to our customers who showed up,” he said. “We were like, ‘Our market in Hollywood got canceled because some guy was spinning on his balcony; today is a great day for making pasta, you should definitely get that San Marzanos crate you always talk about,’ and “You should make pickles out of the pickled cucumbers.”

The Finleys feel lucky to be running their own stand there, if not to recoup some of the financial loss, at least to make their work grow.

A harvest crew of eight had worked 10.5 hours on Saturday harvesting produce for the Sunday market, picking from the 70-acre farm throughout the day, then loading the truck in the evening.

“We weren’t able to sell everything that was coming back from the Hollywood market,” Christopher Finely said, “but we made a pretty big dent. It’s just what it is, so you forget it and you go ahead. This weekend, they don’t know what market participation will be — whether buyers will be spooked by Sunday’s close or will be out in force to support. Either way, Bowman says , Hollywood Farmers Market vendors will be back and waiting to welcome them.

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