Tonawanda News — “Eating local” might sound like the latest foodie buzz word but in North Tonawanda it’s been happening since 1908.
Now, as more and more people look to buy produce grown locally rather than harvested hundreds of miles away and shipped to a big box store, it’s fueling a resurgence at a Lumber City institution more than a century in the making.
The fact that the North Tonawanda City Market has been in existence for 106 years may speak to its heritage, but it has also emerged as a reason to explore possibly expanding it, according to city officials.
John Long, the market manager for most of the past 11 years, said that patrons are beginning to rediscover the market as well.
With about 7,000 people on any given summer Saturday, Long said attendance numbers have at least doubled over the last three years during the busy season. While that number couldn’t be independently verified, the market vendors no longer have enough space, while some interested in setting up shop have to be turned away.
“I have 138 spots and everything is full,” he said. “Even in the wintertime on Saturdays there are 30 vendors there.”
The council recently poured about $60,000 into a new roof at a market structure used for Parks and Recreation storage, but with eyes now on a possible expansion project. The pavilion where many of the market’s wares are housed, has been sandblasted and painted, while Long said he is currently searching for grant opportunities through the city’s community development arm for future projects.
Long, who only works part-time doubling as a employee of the school district, said since the city opened up the farmers market to those in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, numbers began to burgeon, though he also attributes the apparent growth to healthier eating and a interest in buying local.