ELLSWORTH, Maine — The local farmers market is getting a new indoor home for the next couple of months in a large, empty downtown retail space that is finding new life as a venue for pop-up markets and events.
The Ellsworth Farmers Market, which during warmer months splits its time between one parking lot outside the the Maine Community Foundation and another next to the Maine Grind building, will run Saturdays in the former J&B Atlantic space starting Nov. 3.
Cara Romano, executive director of Heart of Ellsworth, said Monday that the downtown marketing organization has leased the space on behalf of the farmers market through the end of January, but that the market typically runs only until mid-to-late December.
She said the farmers market in prior years has operated in November and December at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Bucksport Road.
“We’ve never had a space for them to go indoors [downtown] before,” Romano said.
The former J&B Atlantic space, located in the 9,100 square-foot Tracy Building at the corner of Main and Franklin streets, has become a popular spot for local events in Ellsworth’s bustling downtown.
Since J&B Atlantic closed in the spring of 2016, a couple of other businesses have opened up in part of the Main Street building. Northern Lights Dance Arts and Vintage & Vinyl now occupy roughly the uphill half of the structure, which used to be taken up entirely by the furniture and home goods store.
The large vacant section, on the corner of Main and Franklin streets, remains largely unused, but has periodically come to life with commercial activity. It hosted a holiday marketplace in the weeks leading up to Christmas last year and has been used to help stage two Taste of Ellsworth events outside on Franklin Street.
Earlier this month it was the venue for Beer & Boogie, a ticketed event at which people tasted beers made by Fogtown Brewing — which opened up last year nearby on Hancock Street — and enjoyed a performance by Fremont Street String Band and Trenton fiddle prodigy Gus La Casse. And two more events are planned for the space — a forum for City Council candidates at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, and a cider and cheese festival Nov. 10.
Romano said the large space is big enough to host both the holiday and farmers markets simultaneously, and that the cider and cheese festival will be staged in the evening, after the markets have closed and packed up for the day.
The location, size and openness of the space, and the flexibility to use it for live entertainment or to allow alcohol to be served, makes it a good fit among the other public gathering spaces downtown, Romano said. The Grand Auditorium has little open space for setting up vendor booths or tables and chairs, while City Hall — just out the back door of the building — has smaller meeting rooms and does not host live entertainment.
The visibility of the space on Main Street, through which routes 1 and 3 connect points farther west with Mount Desert Island and the Down East coast, also helps to boost interest in gatherings at the former furniture store.
“Overwhelmingly, it is what the community wants,” Romano said of having a flexible public gathering space downtown. “It’s perfect for events.”
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