It seemed there weren’t enough superlatives to describe opening day at the Riverhead Farmers Market today.
The one-word reviews from shoppers, vendors and Main Street merchants were unanimous.
The market’s debut drew a crowd the likes of which no one expected, including the vendors — many quickly sold out and those who were able went back to their shops, farms and kitchens for replenishments.
“We sold all of our bread within an hour,” Blue Duck Bakery co-owner Nancy Kouris said. Blue Duck employees went down the street to the bakery and took all the bread from the shop — and quickly sold out of that, as well, Kouris said. Their sandwiches and soups also sold out.
“We’re thrilled,” Kouris said. “We do a lot of farmers’ markets and we know how successful they can be. This was just incredible.”
Meredith Daniell of Merker Fisheries in Hampton Bays called her husband to bring more fish. “He couldn’t believe we sold everything so fast.”
Chris Browder of Browder’s Birds rushed back to his Mattituck farm for more eggs.
“All we have left is this brie,” said a grinning Hal Goodale, holding in his hand a plastic-wrapped square of white cheese produced at his Aquebogue farm. “It was unbelievable.”
“The beer we thought would last the whole day, we sold in an hour,” said Matthew Spitz of Moustache Brewery, a brand new micro-brewery in Riverhead. “We had to go back for more kegs.” In all, Spitz said, Moustache sold about 50 gallons of beer.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” said his wife and partner, Laurie Spitz. “But this was awesome.”
Holly Browder, who brought the idea of an indoor farmers’ market to Riverhead community development director Christine Kempner, said she was almost stunned by its opening-day success.
“So many people sold out in an hour,” Browder said.
Next week, there will be more vendors at the market, Browder said; today, there were 27 in all.
There was a wide variety of offerings from small producers; Browder said the market was carefully curated to ensure variety and originality. For a photo tour of the opening day vendors, click here.
“It was awesome,” said Carolyn Raynor of Hampton Bays, who came shopping with her husband Andy. “We’re looking forward to coming back next week.”
Evan Ducz, who works at Empire State Cellars at Tanger Outlets, was disappointed to find so many vendors already packed up by the time he got to the market at 2 p.m.
“Next week I’m getting here earlier,” Ducz said.
L.I. Farm Bureau executive director Joe Gergela said he thought a market like this could be a year-round destination in downtown Riverhead. It’s something he’s envisioned for a long time, he said. “Holly [Browder] and Chris [Kempner] really took the bull by the horns to make this happen.”
“Ray [Pickersgill, the BID president] really whipped this place into shape very quickly,” Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said. The market is staged in a long-vacant storefront once occupied by Swezey’s Department Stores.
Pickersgill was thrilled with the market’s debut.
“I knew it would be successful, but I didn’t think it would be this successful,” Pickersgill said. “I walked down the street and talked to some of the businesses and they all had busy days. That’s what it’s all about,” he said.
With throngs coming from far and wide to the downtown market — cars filled Main Street and the adjacent parking lots — Main Street merchants saw a surge in business.
As closing time neared, Liz Strebel, owner of the Riverhead Diner and Grill, strode briskly through the near-empty market looking for the BID president.
“Where’s Ray?” Strebel asked, her face lit with a bright smile. “I want to shake his hand,” she said. “This was the best day we’ve had in a long, long time,” Strebel said. “There are people all over. Main Street is full. The parking lots are full. It’s fabulous!”
Blue Duck Bakery’s Kouris said business was very brisk at her bakery shop today, too.
People started wandering into Vines and Hops as soon as it opened at 2 p.m., said Jeff McKay, owner of the new wine, craft beer and coffee bar on East Main Street. Next week, he said, he plans to open at noon.
“This is a real shot in the arm for Main Street,” McKay said.
The Riverhead Farmers Market will be open every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. through May 17. It’s located at 117 E. Main St., opposite the Suffolk Theater.
RiverheadLOCAL photos by Emil Breitenbach Jr.
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