Things didn’t go quite as planned last week, when the South Perry Farmers’ Market was supposed to move indoors for the winter at the Emmanuel Family Life Center on South Richard Allen Court.
Market director Brian Estes said everyone was set up and ready to open, when the fire marshal showed up and told them to leave the building.
“There was a problem with the permits in the building, there was no sprinkler system,” said Estes, who moved the market outdoors. “We could still be on the property, but we couldn’t be inside the building.”
Fire protection engineer Dave Kokot of the Spokane Fire Department said when the city came out for the final inspection of the Emmanuel Family Life Center prior to its grand opening in February it expected to find a sprinkler system.
“We were told that the church believed it was all taken care of, but there were no sprinklers,” said Kokot, adding that the water connection is far from the building which will make it extra costly to put the sprinklers in. “Unfortunately, we are the ones who end up looking like the bad guys here,” Kokot said.
Bethel AME pastor, the Rev. Lonnie Mitchell, who’s also a board member of the Emmanuel Family Life Center, said the church never suspected that housing the farmers market would be a problem. Bethel AME is a partner in the Emmanuel Family Life Center.
“We decided not to challenge the fire marshal, but we will do anything to help find a reasonable place for the farmers market,” Mitchell said. “We believe the farmers market is a very good thing for this community.”
Mitchell said plans to complete the proposed child development center at Emmanuel Family Life Center had to be put on hold exactly because the building lacks a sprinkler system.
“We knew about that, we just didn’t think the market was going to pose any kind of problem,” said Mitchell. “And yes, we will try to get funding for a sprinkler system so we can operate the center like we had planned.”
Emmanuel Life Center can still rent out office space and use the gym for church related activities.
“The first we heard of a farmers market going in there was when we saw the story in the paper,” said Kokot. “Activities must be church related; the farmers market is not.”
So now the hunt is once again on for an indoor location for the South Perry Farmers’ Market.
Market representatives talked with one of the owners of the old Altamont Pharmacy, but even if it was used as a temporary location some improvements would have to be made to bring it up to code.
“Financially, I don’t think it’s going to work out for us,” said Estes.
Tuesday evening, Estes was pursuing other locations such as the recently vacated building belonging to the Buddhist Temple on Perry. He’d also talked to the Rev. Deb Harper of the Liberty Park United Methodist Church, but the space at the church is too small.
“We may try Grant Elementary School,” said Estes, who was calling anyone in the neighborhood with empty space on their hands. For now, the market is in the parking lot by The Shop where it was all summer.
The market had a successful season – sales were up an estimated 400 percent compared to last season – and vendors and neighbors were looking forward to having a bustling market over winter as well.
The market features locally grown and produced food including bread, eggs, honey, vegetables, baked goods, meats and fruits.
“Maybe this is a blessing in disguise,” Estes said. “We are trying to get local food into a neighborhood that doesn’t have a grocery store. We are trying to empower the local food system to feed people better food. We really want the conversation to be about that, and not just about the famers market.”