By Mary O’KEEFE
Walk down Honolulu Avenue during Harvest Market on any given Sunday lately and you will hear vendors talking about the changes to come.
“We hear they are going to be [ending] the Thieves Market,” said Terre Ashmore, owner of Gold Leaf, a popular antique booth at Harvest Market.
Ashmore was referring to a consistent rumor that has been spreading through the market since the Glendale Police Department began an investigation into the market’s operations.
Members of the Montrose Shopping Park Association executive board had gone to the police department after they became concerned about the proceeds being collected from the market vendors.
The MSPA, which is the sponsor for the Harvest Market, has been taking a more proactive approach to the market. John Drayman, who is a founding member of the Sunday market, had an active role in the week-to-week operations. He has since been removed from that role.
The MSPA has developed a committee comprised of merchants and community members to discuss the future of the market.
“There are going to be changes [around] January to the market,” confirmed Alyce Russell, MSPA president. “We have been going to other farmers markets to assess what they are doing that works. No one is making any big changes.”
Russell said the association wanted to look at other markets that are successful to see how they can apply that information to the Harvest Market.
The concern of Ashmore, and other vendors at the market, is that many of those venues do not have a thieves market area.
“So many farmers markets have closed down,” Ashmore said. “And others are getting rid of their thieves market area.”
Ashmore has been a vendor at the Montrose Harvest Market for about three years. She has an email client list of 150 names. Every Sunday loyal customers stop by her booth to either ask her to look for a specific antique they want or to purchase an item she had emailed them about.
“If this [venue] isn’t possible, I will have to go into an antique mall and have to raise my rates to cover the [overhead],” she said.
Russell said it is not MSPA’s intent to get rid of everyone but to look at the vendors and see if they offer something the association feels is wanted by market visitors.
“We are exploring what other markets do. Many will do rotations [of vendors],” she said.
There have been some local businesses that have been trying to get a spot in the market but have been told it is full. Russell thinks having a rotation system would make it fair to vendors who want to join the Sunday event.
“We love the market the way it is,” said resident Sharon Uretz. “The Harvest Market brings people to Montrose. I don’t come for the vegetables I come for the [thieves] market.”
She added she noticed Sundays were busier for local merchants along the avenue, which she attributes to the Harvest Market.
She is worried about the choices the MSPA is going to make.
“I don’t want four people to make a decision about what is done at the market,” she said.
That is another “misconception” Russell said she would like to clarify and the reason she invited community members to join the MSPA events committee. Members can share opinions on everything from the Harvest Market to Spooktacular.
“Why shouldn’t the [community] get a say?” Russell said.
The rumors and investigation are not the only issues MSPA is dealing with. The association had been working under a non-profit organization status. The problem is that MSPA is not a non-profit organization.
Dale Dawson, MSPA’s executive director and former MSPA president, reportedly said he was unaware that the organization was not considered a non-profit.
“We knew we didn’t have a 501C-3 [nonprofit status],” said Russell.
She said that Dawson had been misunderstood in those reports. The MSPA present members had thought they were grandfathered into the nonprofit status because the association was in place long before the current nonprofit rules and regulations.
“We were established in 1968,” she said.
When it was discovered this was a misconception on the MSPA’s part, they immediately began working on a solution, Russell added.
The concern is they have to resolve this issue by Tuesday. In the meantime, officers from the County of Los Angeles Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures can be seen at the Harvest Market.
“Our inspectors can show up any given day [markets] are operating. They go to wholesale markets downtown [as well],” said Ken Pellman, spokesman for the County Agricultural Commissioner.
Although he did not comment on the Montrose Harvest Market specifically, he said, “In general, when our inspectors are at a Certified Farmer’s Market they are looking for compliance in paperwork, to make certain that the vendors in the vegetable/fruit market are selling agriculture they grew themselves or are representing a local farmer.”
To comply with the California certified market rules, the MSPA must be sponsored by a nonprofit organization, a city or a certified producer. Russell said that Harvest Market representatives have gathered the paperwork and will be filing under the certified producer option.
Russell said she is confident this filing will be approved and the Harvest Market will continue as normal.
She also wants to ensure market-goers that the MSPA is not planning sweeping changes but adds there are some changes in the market’s future.