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Ferry Plaza - So long, Fitzgerald

Another great vendor hits the dust.

Cuesa, Cuesa ... sure these vendors are giving polite exit messages ... read between the lines.

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    1. Fitz emailed me today to report his decision not to come back to Ferry Plaza this year. He says his sales have dropped steadily and severely over the four years (2003-2006 inclusive) since the move from Green Street to Ferry Plaza; he blames the influx of tourists, crowding out actual customers (the tourists look but buy little or nothing) in the market and making parking, never easy, next to impossible. He's on the CUESA board so his explanation carries weight; right or wrong, the sales figures don't lie, and he (along with Mariquita Farm) is packing it in. Is the Ferry market headed toward becoming a bogus tourist attraction, "market-land," with a few upscale shops (the wine place, Recchiuti) but fewer and fewer actual growers selling actual food to local customers? I sure hope not.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rootlesscosmo

        The certified portion of the market is reserved for farmers, so they can't be replaced by other businesses. There are lots of other farmers in line to get any spaces that open up.

        There are lots of tourists, it's true, but it's a great place to make contacts to develop CSA and wholesale business.

        Note that Mariquita didn't switch to another market with fewer tourists. Since they're selling everything they can grow through wholesale and CSA channels their years at Ferry Plaza helped them build up, they don't need to bother with farmers markets at all.

        Parking's easy on Saturday. There are always lots of spaces in the 75 Howard structure, or you can park for free in Embarcadero Center if you get your ticket validated. Both are closer to the market than the average space I used to find up on Green Street, which was much less convenient to public transportation.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          There were also some complaints about not letting more of the La Cocina people sell their wares but the bottom line is they don't want more prepared food, only producers with ingredients. I think it's pretty cool, although I would like to see Huarache Loco and some of the others competing for my tamales dollars!

      2. What I neglected in the OP was to ask if there are any other stone fruit vendors unique to Ferry Plaza. I think all the other vendors with a large variety of stone fruit sell at the other Bay Area markets.

        I'll miss Fitzgerald. I loved his fanciful names for fruit like Carmen Miranda, Irish Lilt and at the end of the season, Swan Song. He was always a really nice guy too, encouraging people to sample.

        I asked him about the names once and he said that a lot of fruit just had numbers assigned to them, so he gave them names. He also developed a mini apricot and is working on a fuzzless apricot according to his profile. Interesting stuff about his background too that makes me like him even more.

        It always surprises me how small some of these business are. He had two full-time employees and three seasonal workers taking care of the 35 acres in Reedley. Lucky people in Santa Monica ... he still sells at that market.

        Anyway, thanks for all those years Fitz wherever you are ... for the delicious fruit and the smile.

        7 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          Here are the Ferry Plaza farmers listed on the Web site as selling peaches, some of them are familiar to me from other markets, some aren't:

          G. L. Alfieri
          Balakian Farms
          Bella Viva Orchards
          Blossom Bluff Orchards
          Capay Fruits & Vegetables
          Frog Hollow
          Hamada Farms
          Hidden Star Orchards
          Hunter Orchards
          K & J Orchards
          Kashiwase FaRms
          Loewen Farms
          Paradez Farms
          Tory Farms
          Twin Girls Farm
          Woodleaf Farm

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Yeah, all the farmers with a large selection like Blossom Bluff, Hamada, etc. sell elsewhere and it is easier to load up a crate to bring to the car elsewhere.

            Does anyone one know if some of the other smaller farmers who might sell a unique peach, apricot or plum.

            Sciabica, the olive oil people, occasionally have the best fuzzy Indian peaches. I just found out they also sell at the Pleasanton Farmers Market ... whoo-hoo !!!. That was one of the few remaining vendors I still go to Ferry Plaza for ... now I have another source.

            That leaves Langiers, DeVoto and the Apple Farm as my reason for making the effort to go to FP. I supposed stopping by the DeVoto farm in Sebastopol would be the better option for me. We will have to disagree about the parking situation at Ferry Plaza vs. Green Street. I know at Green Street I always parked a few steps away from the market and was able to pull right up and double park at most vendor booths if buying heavy items ... so I could load them in the trunk. I could buy fragile tomatoes, walk across the street to my parked car and lovingly place them on the seat so they didn't bruise and then walk across the street and resume shopping. Different shopping patterns.

            Does anyone know about a new farmers market in SF around uh ... 7th? 9th? Street? I was coming off the freeway and noticed the sign nearish AK Subs. Something about Saturday and Sunday. Had an appointment and couldn't circle back to check the details on the sign.

            1. re: rworange

              Knoll Farms has great stone fruit and so far as I know doesn't go to any other markets.

              If you always found a space across the street at Green St., was that in blue spaces, or at 8am? By the time we got there, the place was so mobbed that we usually had to drive around for five minutes before coming across some other shopper pulling out of a space blocks away.

              1. re: rworange

                Ferry Plaza Saturday, Berkeley Tuesday and Saturday, and San Rafael Thursday and Sunday are where I find the best stuff.

                Other farmers markets, I haven't found much that's better than I can buy at Berkeley Bowl.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  With the exception of the Richmond Farmers Market which really, really ... really sucks ... every market has at least one unique vendor. I love BB, but even the no name Asian stands at the farmers markets, the quality is fresher and the prices much lower. You are getting stuff that was recently picked.

                  Also there is the feeding frenzy ... the stands with shoppers jockeying to get in. It makes me trot over and pay attention to what the excitement is all about. I usually find some great new thing or someone who is growing some item better and cheaper than anyone else.

                  Not that there aren't the places with the wilted veggies (Richmond, grumble, grumble), but the majority are better. And there are those odd little items that don't show up at Berkeley Bowl ... I can only think immediately of yam leaves ... tho I've seen them at 99 Ranch ... but not as bright and fresh and more expensive.

                  Every market has its charm to me ... except Richmond.

                  Actually some of the pocket markets can be cool because that little farmer who doesn't have enough for another market will show up. And many times what they grow is done so with love and pride.

                  It's like restaurants. If you look closely enough, there usually some hidden gem on the menu that explains the whole existance for the place. Farmers markets to me present a similar treasure hunt.

                  Sigh ... I guess you can never go back. Thank you Ferry Plaza for opening up a whole new world to me. Miss yah though, but I'll always have fond memories of the way it was ... cue music ... misty water-colored meeemories, of the way you were.

                  1. re: rworange

                    I agree that Ferry Plaza at Green Street was for heavy, regular users a better market.

                    However, it seems clear to me that the new location is a better fit for CUESA's educational mission.

          2. re: rworange

            Fitzgerald is also one that has a large number of high acid stone fruits.

          3. Re the worry that Fitzgerald's, Mariquita Farm, and Ports Seafood might be replaced by prepared food vendors or whatever, this from CUESA's Web site:

            "Please note, we are only considering DIRECT producers of cheese, meat, vegetables, fruits, and flowers in 2007. ... all products must be grown in California, and we give preference to those who farm organically."


            4 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              what really gets me about the FB market is all the vendors who let their greens and herbs bake in the sun all day on saturday so that by the time i get out there everything's wilted and nastry. anyone spot any fresh-looking herbs, greens etc at FB or other markets? it's really not that hard to spray things down with water, or move them out of the sun....sigh.

              1. re: linz

                White Crane keeps their herbs in stellar condition. Ask about 'the mix' ... it looks like a spring mix but it is all herbs. It is kept in back and you can't touch it till you buy it.

                1. re: linz

                  I'm curious- who does this? Most of it looks great that I've seen.

                  1. re: linz

                    I am only there early and nothing is in the sun, but the sun does move. Spraying down with water might be interesting as far as logistics.