Baker shutting the door on markets

 

I had written about this baker giving up the weekday market almost exactly 2 years ago and now via his wonderfully written email newsletter excerpted and linked at the bottom of this post, I see that he is about to give up the remaining farmers market that he attends.

I have certainly heard a wide range of reasons given by producers about why markets no longer work for them, and thanks to my long ago human resources training, I learned to ask myself and my market peers what I used to ask of my staff about departing or failing employees:

Did we do all that we could do to help this person succeed? Did we offer the same resources and attention that we could offer or do offer to others? What else should we offer (if anything) to help situations like this not happen as often in the future? Or are there just circumstances out of anyone’s control that made this inevitable?

When I post this news on my personal FB page, I guarantee you I’ll hear  responses from market shopping friends as well as non-market shopping friends telling me their opinion of his products and his stall, both good and bad, a few who will blame the market and still others who will shrug and say it goes with the territory.

I also guarantee you that when I go and talk to him directly about this email, he will be fair (he always is) to the market management but also specifically critical about markets. He will suggest marketing ideas to me, some of which might very well work for this market and some that have been tried and not worked in the past, all of which may or may not have helped his business. I expect that we will find ourselves in somewhat of a standoff, although I will agree with him that markets should be reactive to the needs of their anchor and to their specialty vendors. I’m not saying that this market was not – I cannot know what the recent relationship is-  but wearing my hat of a market strategist for a minute, any and all markets should constantly fine tune their management and marketing based on their measurement of positive and negative impacts, and that does include measuring a spectrum of individual stall activity across the market.

The trick is to measure within the context of each business’ set of goals and true interest in being at markets long-term.

As a specialty item vendor (he’d  disagree with that description I am guessing, but his breads are unique enough for purchase that they have to be seen as specialty rather than staple goods still), finding his customers can be slightly more tricky than it is for the market to find the anchor vendors customers. And to further confuse matters, in some markets, once in a while the specialty vendors ARE the anchor vendors.

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Waterloo, Louisiana: An Open Letter to New Orleans – Antigravity Magazine

The published letter linked below was written by one of our region’s most innovative direct marketing bakers, and (obviously) one with a great deal of sensitivity and wisdom. Graison has struggled with getting the ends to meet in his tiny business (even while he is unquestionably the region’s preeminent bread baker), much less in it pulling him to the place he dreams his business should be.
He and I have talked a few times about the lack of support for small producers in our region and I can assure you that he is ready to talk with or work with anyone willing to further the needs of he and his peers, but to little avail.
I recommend that people read his essay and also read between the lines of what would drive a full-time baker to spend his time writing and publishing this. If you want my response now, it is because he knows what is at stake is his entire future and the future of the healthy food revolution that may never reach maturity unless we deal with the issues that small businesses face everyday: the lack of infrastructure support, duplicative regulations, half-hearted allegiance to local ingredient sourcing among shoppers, refusal by many (most?) to address vital environmental concerns in food work, commodity-type products taking most of the shelf space-if and when local is even invited, the lack of skilled workers available, necessary policy changes not handled by organizers of food initiatives and so on.
So ask yourself-are you doing everything you can as often as you can for your anchor vendors?
Waterloo, Louisiana: An Open Letter to New Orleans – Antigravity Magazine.