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Northampton Winter Farmers Market to leave Thornes Marketplace basement, seeks new space

NORTHAMPTON — After four years of enjoying free, spacious quarters in the basement of Thornes Marketplace, the Northampton Winter Farmers’ Market is on the hunt for new digs.

Market manager Andrew Lacasse this week said he is busy trying to secure new space from which to operate the market, which runs Saturdays from mid-November to mid-April, in time for opening day Nov. 16.

He said the arrangement has always been with the understanding that when Thornes lined up a paying tenant for the basement space that formerly housed Dynamite Records, the winter market would need to move along. He said Thornes informed him this month that it is close to a signed deal for a tenant for the quarters.

Thornes owner Richard Madowitz confirmed that he has a signed lease offer, though it is not finalized, with a tenant. Madowitz declined to identify the new tenant or its business, saying Thornes lets all of its tenants do their own marketing.

But he said Thornes has had “a great relationship” with the winter market over the years.

“We’re really happy we incubated the space and could see the market grow and blossom,” said Madowitz. “We try to be supportive of the community, that’s one of our missions.”

Meanwhile, Madowitz said plans are afoot to further develop Thornes’ basement to open additional stores there in the spring, and, he said, a three-level space next to Herrell’s is being marketed as a possible restaurant site.

“It’s interesting space. It’s got 17-foot-high ceilings and potentially two rows of windows as well,” he said. “It could be exquisite for somebody.”

Winter market on the move

Lacasse said he’s been reaching out to area schools to see if the market might be able to operate in a school cafeteria. His efforts to secure space in a church were unsuccessful, but he is hopeful something will come through.

“I’m very sure we will find a space,” said Lacasse, who, in addition to running the market, works at Red Fire Farm in Montague.

He said after four years, the market has gained a reputation and a following. It has 15 vendors, and a stable of musicians who play on Saturdays.

“We have music every week, it’s all local acts and the musicians really enjoy performing there,” said Lacasse.

If the market moves to quarters where it must pay rent, the number of vendors will need to be increased, possibly by as many as 10, in order to cover the added costs.

Since the market has a waiting list for interested vendors, those added to the mix will likely come off the waiting list.

The market was founded four years ago by Andrew Huckins. Lacasse took over the market as its owner/manager about a month ago. He said he’s been spending much of his time trying to find suitable space.

“The stipend for a market manager is very small — the rewards are just seeing so much beautiful produce and the music and hundreds of people coming to enjoy it,” said Lacasse.

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