A Metro Detroit Institution Faces Doubtful Future

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After 92-years, one of Michigan’s oldest and steadfast farmers markets is in jeopardy from the Civic Center project that will eliminate more than 200 of the free surface parking spaces surrounding the lot. A lack of transparency from the City has many farmers worried about the future of their businesses.

A dedicated website has been set up for the Farmer’s Market, visit www.savethefarmersmarket.com for more information.

“The city is all screwed up,” said Dominic Cinzori of Cinzori Organic, who has been at the market for 20 years. “Cities all over Michigan and the U.S. are working to develop local farmers markets and Royal Oak is trying to destroy one of the oldest and purest markets in the state.”

The Take Back Royal Oak Coalition is working with many of the market vendors in advocating for the city to revisit the idea that would add additional floors to the police station, which would save more than 100 desperately needed spots near the farmers market while providing parking for area businesses.

Ken Penzien a fourth-generation farmer operates Penzien’s Farm & Greenhouses in Imlay City and has been a fixture at the market for 31 years. “Financially, it’s been a significant hit every weekend, not just for me but for almost everyone, which is why we need to express our concerns on behalf of the people of Royal Oak because this is their market,” said Penzien.

Don and Jan Van Houtte have carried on a four-generation family tradition of selling at the Royal Oak Farmers Market since the 1920s.

“The city back then really had a vision. But now, I think the city is missing its mark with its planning, the lack of parking and belief that shoppers will walk to a parking structure because they told us they won’t,” said Jan Van Houtte.

Concern about Royal Oak City Hall’s transparency has grown from a group of business owners to a grassroots citizen effort and now includes vendors from the Royal Oak Farmers Market.

Recently Kevin Price, Editor at Large of USABR and host of the Price of Business show grew up just a few miles from the Farmers Market and visited it in September of this year while making a visit to one of his favorite parts of the country.  Price said, “the thing that impressed me most about the Farmers Market is that it continues to thrive after all these decades.  When I was growing up in the area my father and I would go every weekend, usually on Sundays when they sold many interesting items — ranging from antiques to hand made gifts.  But we often visited on Saturday to get some of the freshest produce in the area.  The crowds seemed very similar to what I remember as a child.  I hope they figure out how to save this important institution that makes entrepreneurship and the American Dream, available to people regardless of their background or financial statement.”

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