DALLAS — JD Shinn, the chief executive officer of the Dallas Area Visitors Center, said at a Dallas City Council work session on Monday that he’s heard too often that people didn’t know Dallas has a farmers’ market.
Polk County Bounty Market opened in 2010, setting up every Thursday during the summer months at the Polk County Courthouse Square.
Three years ago, the market moved to the lawn at the Academy Building to draw in more shoppers.
In 2015, attendance was 7,035 and jumped to 9,333 in 2016. That surge was an anomaly, the product of an early and abundant season, Shinn said. Last season attendance dropped to 7,699.
The market experimented with its hours, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. — which could explain some of the lack of awareness — but didn’t see more sales during later hours.
Shinn said the switch to the Academy lawn hasn’t met expectations.
“In the years before that were slightly and slowly ramping up to that 7,000 mark, but they didn’t skyrocket once we got to that new location,” he said.
Vendors have declined participation in the market for the upcoming season due to fewer shoppers and lower profits, Shinn said.
To remedy this, the visitors center will consider another move, perhaps to a lot in north Dallas near Main and Ellendale or at the Bank of America parking lot once the branch closes. Even its original location is under consideration.
“We are looking at all of the options and seeing which one is going to be the best option for Dallas overall,” Shinn said.
He said the organization intends to balance its mission — bringing outsiders to Dallas to spend time and money — and making sure the market is serving the community.
Shinn asked for councilors’ input. He said the visitors center board will consider changes to all its events — and handing some off to other organizations. Polk County Bounty Market is one the board felt should stay with the visitors center, but with new ideas.
Changes may go into effect this year or the year after, Shinn said. Already planned for the 2018 season, wherever it takes place, is a new logo for the market.
In addition to a possible new location, more live music, renewed vendor recruitment, and a new day or time could be in store for the market in the coming years.
“There’s a lot of talent here in Dallas. They just haven’t been asked,” said Ashley Kahl, the visitors center programs director.
Kahl noted a frequent complaint is the mid-week, morning and early afternoon time of the market.
“People can’t come to the market. They are not here to come to the market. That’s a problem,” she said. “I think that is something else that we’re addressing without competing with Salem or Independence.”
Councilors suggested looking into market-business partnerships, closing a street for the market, better marketing, and changing the day and time to better suit customers.
Shinn asked the councilors to contemplate what role they would like to see the market fill, whether that be to draw people downtown, offer more fresh produce items or draw visitors to town. He said knowing that would help the visitors center board chart the market’s course.
“We really want to make sure this is the best decision for this,” Shinn said. “What are the city’s goals for the market?”