Road side market stand questions

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by bobp, Nov 12, 2017 at 7:57 AM.

  1. bobp

    bobp Well-Known Member

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    One of our very good customers runs one of the largest road side stands I've ever seen. He sells his own Produce and that of others locally. Hes a man who's been farming for 70+ years gave me the advice to not rely on my wholesale premise idea, so hard and look into retail. He pointed out a well traveled venue that would be easy for me to access and has very high traffic volume. He has sons and other family members in his Business of farming peaches and grapes, melons ECT.

    With this said I respect him and his advice. After months of chewing it over...I've decided to try it. I reached out to a man who owns a couple of very good locations. The best is at the edge of a municipal area where he owns a convenience store. Very large lot. Big shade tree. Lots of traffic..I believe that I'll start with a big tent...If it's profitable...I'll do something mobil, but semi permanent.
    I figured on using a family member/members to run it, as I don't have time.
    I've tailgated Produce before... Successfully, and have sold at farmer's markets. It's too time consuming.

    My question is are there any of you who have run roadside stands? What were your experiences? Failures, stumbling blocks, issues, success, lessons learned ECT?
     
  2. dmm1976

    dmm1976 Well-Known Member

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    I never ran one but my grandfather had a large tent out front for his produce.
    He also had cords of wood stacked out front for sale , and several different types of worms in large bins the basement.

    He was retired, so not sure what kind of $ it was bringing in but I know he loved it and it kept him and all us grandkids busy. He'd pay us 25¢ to stack wood, or round up a dozen nightcrawlers .
     

  3. mmoetc

    mmoetc Well-Known Member

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    If a farmer’s market is too time consuming how are you going to feel about the time demands of a stand in a parking lot? Will you set up every day or just when you feel like it? What will your financial arrangement with the lot owner be and what expectation of your presence does he have? Will you be covered by his liability insurance or will you have to provide your own? Can you raise enough produce to stock the stand regularly and develop and keep repeat customers?

    A bit of background. We vended at markets for many years and my wife manned a tent for a local grower with multiple locations for a couple of years. It’s not an easy business but gone right it can be a profitable one. You have to be there when people want you there with an ample supply of fresh and quality produce. Go in with your eyes open and good luck.
     
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  4. bobp

    bobp Well-Known Member

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    We already have liability insurance that covers off farm sales, and FLIP insurance. No issues there.

    The lot owner doesn't want paid he wants increased store traffic. And a deal on his own Produce lol...His words. The lot has 3 entrances from the highway. Tons of traffic...
    He offered three locations. This is the best, IMHO. He even mentioned letting folks yardsale in the lot too...
    I would not man it personally. I don't have time.
    I'll pay a percentage of sales on a partnership to a family member and let them run it. It'll likely only be open afternoons/evenings... I'm thinking 3-7pm and weekends. 7-7

    I'll sell some of my own...As much as we can. But We'll still have to sell Wholesale. (We produce a large volume of Product) and we'll buy or trade locally for the reminder for resale. Try to have the basics.... Tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, whatevers in season...And available..My wife can bring Produce back from with her when she runs our delivery route, that she already runs.
    We pick berries twice daily and deliver every other day.

    If it's profitable and the help isn't a big issue I figured on building a Mobile building, for the next year... something like one of the 12x36' cabins. Something I can put coolers in. And have permanent shelving for jams Kellie's crafts ECT.

    I found the farmers markets man hours to actual sales ratio to be off. It's too time consuming. Yes per pound sales are better, but there's not enough volume to make it profitable for me.
     
  5. mmoetc

    mmoetc Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the response. Looks like you’ve got a lot of things covered. I’m still a bit skeptical of your staffing plan. Percentage of profits works well on days when sales are good but a rainy Tuesday when no one stops can put a damper on motivation. As I said before, good luck.
     
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  6. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    My wife started up a new Farmer's Market this summer. You can end up spending a great deal of time just baby-sitting a parking lot. She got a lot of lookie-loos, it can take years to develop a customer base.
     
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  7. haypoint

    haypoint Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Getting people off their wallet is hard work. Easy to produce tons of wholesome vegetables. Hard to market it. A farmer's market is a concentration if interested buyers. If you can't profit there, and many can't, then I see no reason that a Party Store parking lot will either.
    Go to other, nearby, road side stands and see how much traffic and sales they generate.
    All things farming work their way into un-profitability. When pumpkins were selling for $8 each, everyone started growing pumpkins. In a few years they were two for $4. Now they are $20 a pickup truck load. Happens with every commodity.
    If you have access to teenagers that will work for near no pay or if you don't figure your time or wage as you sit there, day after day, try it.
    I have tried retail many times. I can produce a wide variety of products at a below market cost, but have been unable to profitably market most things.
     
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  8. bobp

    bobp Well-Known Member

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    Of course labor is a concern. But the season is short, being a couple of months or so???
    We sell Berries wholesale to several road side vendors... They always move quickly. They always seem to have good customer volume. We even sold our Berries to a couple of farms that have 'you pick' operations.....They put ours on the table as ready picked.... Save theirs for the 'you pickers'...

    The location is very convenient. The other markets in the NWA area are very busy.
    But like anything else if the weekdays are not profitable we'll try the weekends...
    One of my boys was chewing on hitting the markets....you can hit one every day of the week here, in the different townships, but ultimately he decided not to.

    On the pumpkins ECT... I have little interest in messing with annual crop farming... low input costs = low output.

    I'll stay with the products that take lots of investment & lots of work, and lots of time, it keeps the competition a bit more level...
    Reselling at our market however is another story...Have a variety around so we can sell our berries....
     
  9. krackin

    krackin Well-Known Member

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    You will need some annual crops as an added draw whether you grow them or they are grown by another farm. You must have high end product, the best.

    I don't do berries like I used to, changed to sweet corn draw. Now I mainly produce sweet corn with other crop as filler. I don't open until my corn is ready, I only sell my corn, I don't buy others' crop. My customers will not have it, no way. I'm a destination just for that. Very short season, 2 months average.

    It wasn't worth it to me to open other stands, tried it. I do sell wholesale to select farm stands and farmers' market vendors which specialize in other products. The ones I sell to are far enough apart so they aren't competing against each other and they all have their own extreme products they do themselves. We all tell customers where the products are sourced which really helps everyone.

    Business hours are tough. Beginning season 9 to 6 except Sunday, 10 to 5. We get earlier customers while doing wholesale counts but sometimes we can't service them. They drive by and see a load of fresh corn then come right in wanting some. We explain it to them as orders being filled because corn comes in fresh picked and it takes a lot of time. Some get a little snippity, I tell them to place their order the day before, 50 dozen minimum. Late season, 10 or 11 to 6, Sunday 11 to 4 or 5. By then our wholesale customers just as soon pick up a bit later, it is just as rough on them.

    Seasonal produce is tough business. Just remember, you have to have the best, customers can get low end anywhere.
     
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  10. bobp

    bobp Well-Known Member

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    I never had My intentions of selling retail. I do not have the time not patience. Wholesale works well for us.
    However since the advice I got from my customer, I mulled it over..And it seems viable if I have help I can trust. It would have to be it's own venture.

    Our Berries are high end... we don't pack otherwise. we sell directly to a couple of grocery chains, and to a couple of wholesale distributors. They won't accept culls, or even 2nds.
    Most of our Berries are on the store shelf by the second day. Sold as locally grown. When outs are ready I let them know a couple of weeks ahead of time, and they don't order the others from the warehouses.
    We pack in clamshells to fit they're mods so it's easy for them to sell. And QT or PT pulps for the roadside markets.
    I wouldn't put out Produce for sale otherwise.
    We have a good seconds demand as well. Sold out this past season. Wanted to test jam recipes....but Didn't even keep a gallon of BBs back for a cobbler later in the winter... Customer found out we had them froze and wanted em all.
     

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  11. bobp

    bobp Well-Known Member

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    After chewing it over it just makes sense to 'TRY'... Right now it seems my daughter will head it up... We'll see...

    Our Berries moved very very well on the local stores shelves.
     

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  12. krackin

    krackin Well-Known Member

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    Yup, I hear that. I really am lousy at retail sales, great for an hour or two. Then I get thinking about all the work that needs doing. I have been very fortunate by having a few very good people person types work for me. I always paid them over the local rate and gave extras, all they can use at home, all their relatives need plus a whole processed hog. Worth it if you can find solid gals. It may sound 'sexist' but traditional farm market sales falls to women, it is what customers expect and want to see. They don't mind seeing my ugly mug early in the day but that is about it.

    Just thought of another fine point. When doing fresh farm sales you need to have your sale area on surrounding grade. No step up to enter. It is a psychological barrier which relates to a regular store. I don't recall where I came across the study yet stop and think about what you would do. Would you go up stairs to a farm market indoors
    or just stroll under the tent next door?
     
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  13. hiddensprings

    hiddensprings Well-Known Member

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    I think you'll find what works for you. Be sure to get in writing the agreement with the gentleman that is allowing you to set up. And I'd also have a written agreement with my help that was manning the location (even family needs to have a written commitment IMO) Farmer's Markets can be good or bad depending on how they are run, where they are located, and the number of visitors. The market I attended when I lived in Tennessee was awesome. I made very good money for 4 hours a week on saturday
     
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  14. hunter63

    hunter63 Well-Known Member

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    Port a potties?
    Local permits?
     
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  15. wendygoerl

    wendygoerl Member

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    Well, I can't speak to running a roadside, but as long as I can remember, we've been buying sweet corn from a truck that sets up a few blocks away from us. They've always used a 4-door pickup with a canopy build over the bed. The sweet corn gets piled on the tailgate, and other produce gets put in crates alongside the truck, usually sitting on other crates so people don't have to bend over so far. Another roadside that's only been operating 10-15 years has a chipboard "counter" that they leave on-site to set their goods on. Neither one bothers with a tent. hey, it's not like produce isn't used to getting rained on. And people gotta get out of their cars to shop with you , anyway.
     
  16. haypoint

    haypoint Well-Known Member Supporter

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    The "buy local" sentiment isn't new. I recall a guy that started a big garden in a vacant lot on a busy street in Lansing, MI. He put up a camping tent, about 12 by 16 and apparently lived in it. Every day, folks would see him tending his crops. He had a little of just about every vegetable. Before long, he put up posters and began selling his crops. It was a big hit. Folks that had watched the garden grow now willingly offered top prices for their local produce.
    At night, the produce truck from Grand Rapids Wholesale would stop and refill his tent. Salesmanship is often the key.
     
  17. krackin

    krackin Well-Known Member

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    I had a competitor who was seen loading his truck up in back of a local chain grocer. Word got out and then he went out. Customers do not like being played for fools.

    Here one can't just set up roadside and sell product out of a truck any ol' place. You need to be an established business although you don't need a license from the state. It was deemed unfair for taxpaying businesses to have to compete with roadside fly by nighters with dubious products of any type. Towns can deal with that by issuing vendors' licenses. As an example, I could set up on a store lot but I can't just pull into scenic vista or fire pond parking lot and sell.
     
  18. bobp

    bobp Well-Known Member

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    Good idea on the writing agreements... No porta potties necessary.. the convenience store has it covered... He wants the traffic.
    Permits are necessary for the city but not horribly difficult to obtain...
     
  19. bobp

    bobp Well-Known Member

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    Roadside tailgaters are not uncommon here. Corn melons all kinds of stuff...

    The tent is for shade... More than anything..

    I wouldn't claim to grow something I didn't... Dishonesty doesn't ever pay off.... But a farm stand can easily still appeal to folks wanting local... These are farmer browns tomatoes, my Berries, Mr.Jones's squash... It works..
     
  20. krackin

    krackin Well-Known Member

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    I sell product by other locals. Eggs, maple syrup, pickles, apples, baked goods from time to time. Jams and jellies are good too but hard to source for me. I'd make all that stuff myself but hard to pick blueberries in the dead of winter, have to plow snow for the town anyway. The demand is far ahead of supply at times.