An attorney by day and documentary filmmaker by night is hoping to transform an old lumberyard in Palatine Bridge into a lively destination for fresh, local food and wares.
Canajoharie native Jesse Quackenbush says the site across from Price Chopper on Route 5 is ideal for an antique mall, flea market and farmers market, all of which he hopes to open this weekend. It’s well-trafficked and visible, he said, with the space to host farmers, furniture makers, bakers, artists, crafters and more.
“I think that all three business concepts will work well hand in hand,” he said. “We’re trying to turn it into kind of a lively little destination point. People in the village have been excited. Since we started construction, they’ve been stopping in to see what we’re doing and planning.”
The site has been vacant for the past seven years or so. Quackenbush is in the process of remodeling a 6,000-square-foot showroom for the antique mall, which would be open year-round, seven days a week. An adjoining 150-by-50-foot warehouse will host the flea market. And green space out front will host the farmers market, which would be open May through November on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The goal is to offer fresh produce, cheese, meats, baked goods, art, furniture, antiques, crafts and more. Quackenbush even hopes to have a small animal petting farm and live music on the weekends.
“The focus will be primarily on New York-made products,” he said. “We’ve had about 60 phone calls so far from people wanting to be a part of the flea market or farmers market, or both. We’ve gotten a lot of interest, especially from local custom meat producers — lamb, fowl, elk, the stuff you’re not going to find at Price Chopper.”
Vendors can begin signing up Friday, but must apply in person at 6014 State Highway 5. Vendor stalls will be rented on a first-come, first-served basis.
The high cost of food is partially what inspired Quackenbush to pursue a farmers market.
The local native graduated from Canajoharie High School in 1980 and went on to earn degrees from Onondaga Community College, the University at Albany and the University of Houston Law Center.
Today, he practices law in New York, Texas and New Mexico, and pursues documentary filmmaking on the side. He also serves on the board of the Montgomery County Office for the Aging, which runs a Meals On Wheels program for senior citizens.
“Part of being on the board is you realize how in need the region is for decently priced food products,” he said. “Meals On Wheels has a waiting list that’s 140 people long.”
That’s why he’s requiring all participants of the farmers market to offer seniors a 15 percent discount on food purchases.
In addition, 10 free vendor stalls will be available each day of the market for veterans, high school fundraisers and senior citizens.
It’s unclear how the new market will complement or contrast an existing farmers market in nearby Canajoharie.
That market, run by the Canajoharie Palatine Chamber of Commerce, has opened each summer since 2008 in the parking lot outside the Arkell Museum.
Quackenbush and chamber officials met earlier this year to discuss possibly joining forces. But the Canajoharie market had already secured the annual paperwork required by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets for its operation at the Arkell Museum site, so it wouldn’t have made sense to upend that market and move it to the Palatine Bridge site, said Diane Reilly, organizer of the Canajoharie market.
“We don’t really have the population base for two markets,” she said. “We’re not a large city or anything. We’ll talk in the future about combining the two, but it’s a little late in the game to join forces this summer.”
The Canajoharie Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. June through October. Its vendors include farms from nearby Fultonville, Sprakers, Sharon Springs and Cherry Valley, offering everything from vegetables, fruits, goat cheese and spreads to eggs, grass-fed beef, pork, lamb, veal and daylilies.
Quackenbush said he suspects his Palatine Bridge site may be a better location for a farmers market, but added that he doesn’t expect it to be an overnight success.
“I think it’s going to be a building process,” he said. “I don’t expect we’ll be flooded with a bunch of farmers right away. But so far we’ve had inquires from as far west as Utica and as far east as Vermont.”
Anyone with questions about the market can reach Quackenbush at 505-301-9888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.