Abby Militello enjoys shopping at local farmers’ markets.
It’s something she does in the summertime – but not so much during the winter, because there aren’t any around.
“I go through withdrawal in the winter,” the Hamburg woman said.
Well, not anymore.
Militello was among hundreds of people who streamed through the new Winter Market at Horsefeathers on Saturday at 346 Connecticut St.
Grass-fed beef, homemade pasta, goat’s milk products and a selection of custom-blended spices, teas and dips were some of the items for sale.
“Nutritious food, hanging out with people, knowing your neighbors – that’s how a city grows,” said Roberto Diaz-Del-Carpio, a West Side resident.
The indoor market will be open from 8 a.m. to noon each Saturday through May 4. Then, it gives way to the outdoor Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers’ Market season, which gets under way May 11.
The Winter Market is an extension of Elmwood-Bidwell, said architect Karl Frizlen, who purchased the Connecticut Street building three years ago for $475,000. He plans to spend $3.6 million to transform the five-story building into an indoor farmers’ market and food production center, with apartments on upper floors.
It was the farmers’ market that brought people there Saturday. “I think it’s great. It’s bringing people to the West Side,” said Nicole Santillo, who strolled through the market with her friend, Diaz-Del-Carpio.
Jesse Smith was upbeat about plans for the building. “I’m especially excited to see the building being reused. It’s a beautiful building, and I’m so glad to see it fixed up,” the Buffalo resident said.
Among the dozen or so businesses participating in the indoor market were Spices by Milly, Alpine Made, Pasta Peddler and Arden Farm. Each of those operators said that having a market during the winter months is a great idea.
“This is a new adventure for me to do it in the winter,” said Milly Ferrer, owner of Spices by Milly.
For the past eight years, she has displayed her wares at farmers’ markets, fairs and festivals during warm months. But the Connecticut Street market is “great for winter,” she said.
“I am very impressed and surprised. People are coming to buy, and the neighborhood is really excited,” said Ferrer, who makes her own blends of spices, teas and soup mixes. Selections include cheesy bacon potato soup, spicy taco dip and peanut butter dessert dip.
At the Alpine Made table, Kerry Beiter was selling different kinds of soap made from goat’s milk. At her Wales farm, she also sells certified organic eggs wholesale, and she is currently raising a goat herd for meat.
“This is wonderful,” Beiter said of the Winter Market. “I absolutely will be here every Saturday.”
Eric Amodeo of Pasta Peddler said he sells his products at several different farmers’ markets in the area during the warm months, but the rest of the year is a different story.
“In the winter we only service our wholesale customers,” said Amodeo, adding that the indoor market has been good for business.
“It’s been fantastic,” he said.
Arden Farm of East Aurora sold fresh produce including Russian kale, garlic and oranges. The small farm grows its produce organically. It has been a family-owned operation for four generations, said Cheryl Skibicki, who works there and is enthusiastic about the winter market.
“In the winter a lot of people are not really thinking about farmers’ markets because they are used to looking for strawberries and 70-degree weather, but in the winter, we still have really great quality produce we want to share,” Skibicki said.
Daniel Roelofs of Arden Farm is the great-grandson of Elbert Hubbard, who started the farm to help feed the Roycroft community. Roelofs, a member of the East Aurora Historic Preservation Commission, said the reuse of the old building is good news.
“This is right in my heart. This is what we need to do with old buildings – reuse them. Supporting the local community, revamping the building, supporting local farmers – it’s something to feel good about,” he said. “The [indoor market] is a lot of fun. It’s a really good event.”
Future plans at the site include developing 24 apartments on the fourth floor. The one- and two-bedroom units will be leased for $750 to $1,100 a month, Frizlen said. An elevator from the basement to the fifth floor will be installed, and private parking will be available adjacent to the building. Frizlen expects to have the apartment units open by May.
Additional plans include a market for small businesses to make and sell food. Spaces will be available on the main floor and in the basement. Possible vendors include pasta and cake makers as well as juice and raw food preparers.
In addition, a community kitchen will be established in the basement for use by food vendors.