LEWISBURG — Gerald Stauffer bought the Lewisburg Farmers Market and plans property investments to improve the market experience for shoppers and vendors.
Stauffer closed on the purchase Jan. 17, buying the property from Thomas Leitzel whose family, according to market manager Joe Sharp, founded the business about 80 years ago.
‘It’s exciting, it’s cool. There’s history,” said Stauffer, a real estate investor making his first foray into the farmers market business. “I’m excited to be part of it and the history here.”
Lewisburg Farmers Market, open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays, is located on Fairground Road, East Buffalo Township, just off Route 45. According to the deed of sale recorded in the Union County Courthouse, the property sold for $700,000.
“Will it stay a farmers market? What changes are you making?” Stauffer said of the two questions he’s been asked most since word spread of his acquisition.
The answers, he said: yes and many.
The market averages 90 vendors during cold weather months, Sharp said, an estimate that balloons when the weather warms as additional vendors set up outdoors. There’s no count on the number of shoppers who visit but Sharp estimates upward of 2,000 arrive on any given day.
They’re lured by local fresh produce, meats and poultry grown and raised by farmers in the Valley, homemade baked goods, bulk candy and chocolates, health foods, fresh-cut flowers and handmade arts and crafts
All of it’s sold amidst the smells of freshly made snacks and lunch foods cooked on-site at a standing-room-only counter and surrounding food stands.
As Stauffer and Sharp expressed, Lewisburg Farmers Market has a lot going on and there’s much to build upon.
Stauffer said about 450 feet of permanent roof-only structures, akin to pole barns, will be built outside the market building. This will provide better protection from the elements for vendors who set up outdoors, especially in the summer and during rainy days.
Sharp said the parking lot will be lined and bus parking added.
The building facade will be upgraded as will indoor vendor spaces and restrooms, Stauffer said.
According to Sharp, the building’s many doors all will be replaced and insulation will be added to the attic to better control the climate inside.
“We absolutely will have a more comfortable atmosphere in here to shop in and vend in,” Sharp said.
Shoppers can expect more vendors serving prepared foods like chicken barbecue, ribs, fresh donuts made on-site and brick oven pizza, Sharp said.
“Make it more of a destination than it’s been,” Sharp said.
Extended hours of operation may be coming, too, Sharp said, to open the market to the working class who can’t make it in during the daytime.
The return on infrastructure investments can’t exactly be “penciled out,” Stauffer said, but spending on building upgrades will improve the market experience
“I recognize change and I think our target is to hit it correctly and serve our customers what they want. What Joe mentioned, quality foods and quality produce is certainly going to be a key part of it,” Stauffer said.