2014 0209 farmers market
The indoor farmers' market drew large crows to its East Main Street, Riverhead location a few years ago. File photo.

The indoor farmers market may not reopen downtown this winter.

The Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association has decided against funding rent for a space to house the market.

The decision was based on financial considerations, BIDMA president Steve Shauger told the Riverhead Town Board at Thursday’s work session.

The owner of the vacant Main Street store that has housed the market for three of its four seasons — the former Swezey’s Department Store on East Main Street — required a full-year lease. The BIDMA was paying $1,250 per month, or $15,000 for the year, but was only using the space for one day a week for half the year.

The building has no heat. It also has no fire suppression system, so its occupancy was limited by the fire code.

“We can’t charge the vendors more money, since there’s no heat in the building and we can’t have more vendors since there’s no fire system,” Shauger said.

“It just made no economic sense.” The BID group lost nearly $12,000 on it last year, Shauger said.

When the BIDMA informed the landlord, Riverhead Enterprises, that it would not renew the lease, the landlord — who Shauger said had initially asked for a rent increase to $1,500 per month — offered to accept $750 per month and said he was willing to enter into a month-to-month lease.

“There is a benefit to having it downtown,” Shauger said. “But
does that outweigh the cost?”

The BIDMA board of directors opted not to include the rental in its 2018 budget, he said.

“We’re going to spend that money on capital improvements and on matching a tourism grant instead,” Shauger said.

Some of the vendors are looking into possibly renting space on their own, Shauger said. He said the board could reconsider its decision.

“We’re still having discussions if we can find the right place for it,” Shauger said.

“The concept ws great and I think it’s even better to wean them off the BID, if you will, and do it like a co-op, Supervisor Sean Walter said.

The indoor farmers market debuted downtown in February 2014 and was an instant success. That first season, it was located in the former Swezey’s building at 117 E. Main St. The following season it moved to a different vacant building, the former McCabe’s Office Products/Dinosaur Walk Museum a few blocks east. But it returned to the old Swezey’s building a year later.

Holly Browder of Browder’s Birds in Southold brought the idea of an indoor winter market to then-community development director Christine Kempner nearly four years ago.

Browder said last week some vendors are looking for alternative spaces.

“We will need possible sponsorship,” Browder said.

Editor’s note: The is article has been amended to reflect corrections to numbers originally provided by the Riverhead BID Management Association on monthly rent and annual operating loss for the farmers market.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.