TRAVERSE CITY — Stephani Beauchamp is having her slowest year yet selling gluten-free granola and cookies at the National Cherry Festival farm market, but on the other side of her booths Julie Millen’s cherry goods practically leap into customers’ hands.
“On Saturday people were literally throwing money at us,” said Millen, owner of Benjamin Twiggs. “We couldn’t ring them up fast enough.”
It’s a year of mixed margins. Some Cherry Festival farm market vendors report increased sales, some say sales are low, others say they’re steady.
But they all paid more for the opportunity.
The National Cherry Festival raised rates for farm market vendors this year by around 50 percent. Those selling exclusively cherry products paid $2,000, a $700 increase from last year, and those selling non-cherry products paid $3,000, a $1,000 increase.
Beachump’s Granola So Good booth is stocked with a bright display of granola and cookies, but she doesn’t think enough have sold to cover her costs, not to mention the time and stress it takes to man the booth. She won’t be back.
“Had it been the fees from the other years, we would have been OK, but having to make up that extra $1,000 is killing us,” Beachump said.
Scotty Bruce, owner of Mi Farm Market, said sales are comparable to past years. A rainy Tuesday meant almost zero customers, but business improved on sunnier days. He said the increased fee will hurt his bottom line – it’s not like he can work harder to guarantee an extra $1,000 in revenue.
But Bruce will be back next year with "constructive feedback" for festival operators.
“I don’t think they’re necessarily trying to squeeze us, I just wonder if there are other avenues through which to gain revenue,” Bruce said. “I just wonder if they overestimated the value that was going to be provided at the farmers market this year.”