With the sun shining down on State Street in Schenectady on Sunday morning, dozens of people at a time could be spotted making their way into Proctors, reusable grocery bags and baskets in hand.
When they left, their bags were stocked with locally produced breads, cheeses, coffee and other goods. It’s become a familiar sight on Sundays downtown, thanks to the city’s Greenmarket, which is heading into its 10th year of operation.
“I’ve lived in Schenectady for 30 years, and I think our goal was to help make Schenectady a better place,” said John Mishanec, chairman of the market’s board of directors.
The market relocates indoors to Proctors from November-April each year. On Sunday, hundreds of people filtered through the main level and downstairs, tasting samples, interacting with close to 70 vendors and filling bags and baskets with produce and baked goods. It was the market’s penultimate iteration in Proctors before it moves outside on the first weekend in May.
“I look forward to it every week,” said Judy Martinelli, a Schenectady resident who said she’s been coming to the Greenmarket for as long as it’s been open.
Martinelli said she appreciates the convenience of the Greenmarket since it’s close to her home. Location was a critical factor for those who got the concept up and running almost 10 years ago.
“There’s not a lot of grocery stores in Schenectady, and one of our main goals was to bring a food source into a food desert,” Mishanec said.
Though a similar marketplace has existed in Troy for many years, a small band of volunteers thought it might be nice to have one in downtown Schenectady on Sunday mornings. Among the pioneers of the idea more than nine years ago was late City Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard.
A few thousand people showed up on the market’s opening day, Mishanec said, and the operation has been a hit ever since.
While many other farmers’ markets are vendor-run, the Schenectady Greenmarket is operated by a board of directors that seeks to establish its presence in the greater community.
In addition to selling food and crafts, the market offers educational tables and cooking demonstrations, among other things, Mishanec said. In May, the market will host a “Meet Your City Council Person” event, he said.
The community feel is reflected by its customers and vendors, nearly all of whom return week after week. In the winter, Mishanec said, the market averages about 1,700 customers, while in the summer the turnout is close to double that.
Many in attendance Sunday said the Greenmarket is a weekly or bi-weekly stop. Martinelli said her only criticism is that she wishes the vendors rotated a bit more often to provide some variety, she said.
Jeff Rugen, who operates the Hope Valley Farm Produce and Flowers stand at the market, said he’s been selling potted plants and vegetables at the bazaar for about five years.
“It’s very community-minded,” he said.
That community focus has been the foundation of the market for the last nine-plus years. Not much has changed since its founding, Mishanec said, except for the addition of a market manager who handles the day-to-day operations.
Mishanec likens the organization to a once-a-week business. There are 18 people involved in the board of directors, he said, and the market’s annual budget is about $93,000. That includes rent, insurance and promotion, which is largely covered by vendor fees, though about one-third is collected through fundraising, he said.
The Greenmarket will continue at Proctors next Sunday before relocating outside Schenectady City Hall for the summer months.
“There’s not necessarily a lot of opportunities to do good in the community,” Mishanec said. “This is a way, if you volunteer for the Schenectady Greenmarket, we’re always looking for volunteers to help move the community forward.”