TURLOCK — After fits and starts, it seems the city's most recent attempt at establishing a farmers market is a success.
"They did it right," said Dawn Burkhardt of DePalma Farms, who was selling nectarines and peaches Friday morning. "All their work is really paying off."
Turlock hasn't had a farmers market since a 2004 effort to run a Saturday morning event with a gourmet theme failed to draw enough of a crowd or vendors to sustain it.
The city hasn't been able to recapture the success of a Thursday evening market held in the 1990s. It took up most of Main Street downtown and brought in large crowds. Occasionally, the crowds attracted gang violence.
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The market moved in 1998 during downtown renovations that widened streets and sidewalks and laid new sewer and water lines. Crowds dwindled and it closed two years later.
The new market, which opened May 7, was several months in the making. Students in an executive master's of business administration program at California State University, Stanislaus, adopted the project. A board of directors was formed and the research project became reality.
Members called on potential vendors and visited other markets to find the best day to hold one in Turlock, settling on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"They really did a lot of research," Burkhardt said. "You can't just say, 'Great, let's have a farmers market' and make it work."
She said that although there are plenty of markets Saturdays and Sundays and some on Friday afternoons, the morning worked for a number of farmers and other vendors.
About 20 booths line Broadway on both sides of Main Street for the market; if there are too many farmers selling the same thing, profits are diluted and it discourages them from coming back, Burkhardt said.
Lots of potential
Ann Piccirillo was doing a brisk business selling her Athena's Gifts olive oil, which comes from a Gustine orchard. Piccirillo and her husband have been selling their oil at farmers markets and through specialty stores since 2004.
"It's got a lot of potential," she said of the Turlock market. "It's a quality place for people to come, and they're more interested in local produce."
Business owners are excited about the crowds the market is bringing downtown, which has suffered from the closures of several longtime stores.
Restaurants have opened booths, with organizers encouraging nearby workers and residents to "Meet Me at the Market" for lunch.
"It's been a tremendous success," said Jen Kubala, owner of Ritzy Rags n' Things, an antique and consignment store. "We've had a lot more people come in on Fridays, and on other days. They said they didn't realize we were here."
The market is a big draw for families looking for something to do, Kubala said, and she hopes that the crowds it attracts helps bring more businesses to the area.
Customer Stephanie Mar- quez is happy to have so many fresh produce choices.
A Fresno native, the CSU, Stanislaus, student is used to the large market there.
"This is smaller, but the fruit tastes wonderful," she said. "I'm excited they have one now."