Name: Steve Hillyer
Farmers Market: Journal Square Green Market, Hudson County/Jersey City
Location: Journal Square PATH Station
Dates: May-December, Wednesdays & Fridays, 2-7 PM
Approximate Number of Vendors: 5
Do you allow food trucks?: Yes
Approximate number of weekly attendees: 400
When did your farmers market get started and how did it come about?: The farmers market was originally started in the late 1990s and was managed by the Friends of the Loew's in Journal Square. The market was turned over to the Journal Square Special Improvement District in 2015 as a part of the management of the public spaces within which the market is held.
What makes your farmers market unique?: The market is right outside the Journal Square PATH station so it's easy for people to grab food on their way home. Our market is unique because there are 29,000 people who take the PATH train each day, and 70% walk directly through our market.
Who are your regular market shoppers? What are their general demographics?: There is no one specific demographic; Jersey City is the most diverse city in America and our market reflects that vast diversity. But again, a lot of the shoppers are those coming off of the PATH train.
When selecting vendors for your farmers market, what do you look for? Are there any gaps in types of vendors or products you are especially looking for?: With the general average income of our community in mind, I typically advise merchants with higher price points or particularly "artisanal" products that our market is probably not the right one for them. Prepared foods (non-food truck, like from a stand) surprisingly do really, really well at the market. Bath and body products also sell well.
What advice do you have for food and beverage entrepreneurs who want to be included in your farmers market?: Choose your farmers market with the same level of research you would for a brick and mortar location. When I first began to manage the market in 2016, I had artisanal vendors who compared our market to downtown Jersey City's and were surprised their products weren't selling. After dozens of vendors attempting and then pulling out shortly after, I looked at the statistics — downtown JC's average family income is like $130,000 and Journal Square’s is $60,000. After that, I started advising vendors to lower their prices or their expectations, and that honesty has worked very well for the market.
Also, vendors need to understand their business more and make a planned investment when opening at a market and have a set amount of trial days (with the amount they're willing to invest (read: lose)) in a market to see if their product sells. Consistency is key for both the market and the vendors, but when vendors are not committed it pulls a market down quickly.
What are you most proud of about your farmers market?: We accept entrepreneurs of all shapes, sizes, and dreams. I also like to think that I have helped coach and provide a platform for the micro businesses to get their feet off the ground.
Do you have plans to incorporate anything new in your farmers market in the upcoming season?: We plan to add more seating and possibly live music, if budget allows.