New Castle’s downtown is dotted with unique stores and businesses.
Driving down East Washington Street, a passerby can look out and see restaurants, places for a cup of coffee, a flower shop, banks and more. On a Saturday morning, that list of available amenities grows — in more ways than one.
With its 13th season coming up, the New Castle Farmer’s Market continues to grow, branch out and thrive in its location along East Street.
“It was a booming business,” Audrey Przybylski, market manager said. “The market did extremely well. We didn’t know how it would go with COVID. We had to think about new rules and wearing masks and social distancing. We put a lot of thought in it and talked to the health officials. We weren’t sure if at that point the pandemic would get better. We went ahead with it.”
The open-air market offers a natural opportunity for social distancing while moving about from one vendor booth to the next. In 2020, the tables were set up six feet apart. They were also pushed back a few feet into the parking lot to allow for more space and distancing along the sidewalk. Masks were also required, both for patrons and for vendors.
Przybylski said some options on the table were a drive-thru, but instead the regular market went on. In total, there were 28 vendors.
“We ended up with almost double the vendors and the new vendors came,” Przybylski said. “We had open-air, which helped because a lot of people were sensitive. Everything worked out way better than we ever thought it would.”
On a given Saturday morning, a customer can find fresh vegetables, perennials and Amish baked goods at tables next to each other. There are also opportunities to purchase crafts and other small, non-food items. Some favorites were green beans and yellow beans, tomatoes, peppers, canned goods and hot peppers. Also available were pizza shells, garlic, zucchini, eggs, squash blossoms and herbs. Baked goods from the Amish, La Mangia and Two Fat Guys and an Oven were also available.
New in 2020 was the addition of Papa Gelateria, which served gelato and coffee. There were also crafters who were new in 2020.
“A lot of craft shows were canceled,” Przybylski said. “I guess the community of crafters is close-knit. We had a couple and then they spread the word. A lot of them didn’t have a place to go in a regular craft season, so they came to us. A lot of them did pretty well.”
In total, there were about 28 vendors who were mostly regular throughout the season.
To sell products at the market, Przybylski and fellow market manager Lorraine Petrus go through applications. Vendors are then sent rules and regulations for the market.
The market featured mostly nice weather in 2020.
As far as hopes for 2021, Przybylski said a safe and healthy season for the vendors and customers is at the top of the list.
“It sounds like we’re still going to have to wear masks, Przybylski.
“A lot of people are looking forward to it and I’m already getting calls of when we’re going to open. I’m sure we’ll get new vendors. We have a perfect location and have great parking. One of the reasons we’re successful is because of our location. It’s pretty down there. There are trees and water. A lot of people love to go down there and see everything.”
And it shows business can survive in downtown New Castle’s business district.
“I think it shows you can make New Castle turn around, but you have to pay attention to location and the details on how to do things, Przybylski said.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity downtown. We have to set a plan. I think there’s a lot of ways you can do it.”