On Wednesday, Jul. 06, 2022, the Town of Greater Napanee abruptly announced the permanent closure of the Hometown Market.
The Town stated in a news release that “[s]taff have thought long and hard about the decision to end the Hometown Market, and it was not an easy decision to make… COVID-19 rules and regulations have restricted the amount of produce and types of food products vendors are able to sell; these local products were a big draw at our Market, and unfortunately, we are seeing the results of not having them there.”
However, there are differing opinions surfacing from a number of residents in Greater Napanee. Numerous online comments on the Town’s announcement (which was shared in multiple places) cited other reasons for the poor performance of the Hometown Market, most specifically its relocation from Napanee’s Market Square pre-COVID.
Following the 2018 season, the Hometown Market was moved from Market Square to Conservation Park, and in subsequent seasons was relocated to the Strathcona Paper Center South Lawn, which is a 30-minute walk from the downtown core. Furthermore, some lamented the sterile feel of the market in recent years without live music and food vendors.
Town Councillor and recently-acclaimed Mayor-elect Terry Richardson was among many citizens who expressed surprise at the announcement of the closure of the market. In an email, Richardson noted that he has asked for a Town staff report with respect to the shutting down of the market and intends to “establish how we can make it happen again.”
According to Richardson, the request should be discussed on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, at the regular session of Council, but the agenda hasn’t been published yet. Richardson said, “I’ll be watching for it, as I don’t believe for one minute our community won’t support [a market].”
When asked for comment, Brandt Zatterberg, Deputy CAO of Community and Corporate Services for the Town of Greater Napanee, said that the staff report will be published in Town Council’s agenda by Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. “Staff will not be commenting on the Hometown Market before Council has an opportunity to consider the Staff Report,” Zatterberg noted.
The Greater Napanee Hometown Market has been operated by municipal staff on behalf of the community for 13 years. However, in practice, the market tradition in Napanee, as in many rural communities, spans centuries.
The first recorded settlement in that location was Ganneious, an Oneida Haudenosaunee village established back in 1660, which was destroyed by the French shortly thereafter, in 1687. The area was resettled by the Mississauga Anishinaabe through much of the 1700s. The Loyalists arrived in 1784, and Napanee was first incorporated as a town in 1854. Farmers would gather in the Town Square weekly to sell their produce and other wares while visiting their neighbours.
Indeed, a town market is more than just a location for sales, Francie Kennedy and Alene Parr attest. Along with their families, Kennedy and Parr operate the Hollow Square Market in Newburgh, on a piece of privately-owned property.
The distance between the two markets is just about 15 km. But while the town-operated market in Napanee has seen a steady decline in the last few years (according to their press release), The Hollow Square Market in Newburgh has seen numbers of visitors increasing over the last few years.
The Hollow Square Market operates every other Saturday, running from June until its “Hollows Eve” celebration in the fall. It takes its title from the original name of the village of Newburgh — Rogue’s Hollow. “Which is a really cool name,” said Kennedy. “I don’t know why anyone would change it.”
Kennedy and Parr see the market as an important hub for connection in their community. “I grew up my entire life seeing this empty square in the middle of Newburgh; there was nothing in it,” Parr recalled. “The sales barn used to be there years ago, but then it burned down… We all kind of encouraged my parents like, hey, let’s do something with this space! Let’s make it somewhere where people from Newburgh and from the community surrounding Newburgh can come and hang out and spend time… that was a big motivation, and it is an absolutely perfect place for our market.”
“We’ve really found that our main draw is the art, artisans and crafters, and people that make things,” noted Kennedy, listing woodworking, metalworks, jewelry, soap, and other homemade products as highlights of the Hollow Square Market. There are also food vendors, and a central area with tables and seating.
“We’re focused on the community,” Kennedy added, pointing out that young people can come to their market to sell their wares or to perform for free, giving them an opportunity to try their hand at entrepreneurship.
“We make a space where people come and they can either run through the market and leave, or they know they can stay a while and linger… we’re just kind of bringing back that that old-time Rogue’s Hollow feel.”
With a new regime at Greater Napanee Town Hall beginning this fall, perhaps Napanee will look to their neighbour’s example as a model for a successful community market.