Workers at one of Los Angeles’ top bakeries suddenly had to move more than 300 loaves of bread and six sheets of focaccia away from its farmer’s market stand on Sunday, but Andy Kadin of Bub and Grandmas considers himself lucky. It could have been worse.
That morning a man shooting a gun and throwing objects from the balcony of a Hollywood apartment building caused one of Los Angeles’ largest and oldest farmers’ markets to close for the day, resulting in losses of around 175,000 $ for its farmers and food vendors. No one was injured and the suspect, Joseph De La Cruz, 42, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, is charged with seven counts, including felon possession of a firearm. and illegal possession of ammunition.
The event marked the first closing of its kind at Hollywood farmers’ markets more than 30 years ago. The single-day loss resulted in thousands of pounds of unsold goods and left sellers scrambling to recoup the sales they depend on every Sunday. After his pivots, Kadin estimates he lost $2,000 in bread sales; his particular scramble involved reaching out to a number of food donation organizations to eliminate unnecessary food waste.
I think the most important thing, other than making sure everyone is okay, of course, is making sure the food we have isn’t wasted, Kadin said. This is the #1 thing for us: As long as we’re functioning and we’re okay with paying our payroll and rent, I don’t particularly care where the bread goes, as long as we get it somewhere.
Two of Kadins’ employees were present on Sunday and heard gunshots only about 15 minutes after they began unloading the Bub and Grandmas stand. After being ordered to flee, they hid in the bread truck for about 45 minutes, unsure if it was safe to get out, before leaving the market and returning to the bakery.
Half of Bub and Grandmas Hollywood Farmers Market sales are pre-orders; On Sunday, Kadin refunded about $3,000 to all pre-sale orders and immediately contacted some of the bakery restaurants, convenience stores and other retailers that serve his breads.
These were products that we sold at retail price in the market which we then had to wholesale, which is 30-40% less than what we would earn in the market, which is obviously a disappointment, said Kadin. And even with that, we only cleared $800 of the normal $3,000 market take.
Typically, the Hollywood Farmers Market only closes during major holidays, said Elizabeth Bowman, chief operating officer of the farmers’ market and acting executive director of Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA), who worked for the parent organization of the Hollywood Farmers Markets for about a decade and helps run six markets. It was also closed during the height of the pandemic.
We’ve had all kinds of situations with people, it’s just the nature of being on the streets and in Hollywood, she said. We arrive at the market and find anything and everything on this street [like] drug paraphernalia. We carry cat litter as we set up the market to cover human and animal feces and other odors. It’s really not uncommon to get into a bit of chaos, and so I can imagine that if the person had thrown furniture and stuff, it wasn’t necessarily super alarming.
The first SEE-LA staff member arrived around 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning to set up the street barricades; the rest of the team usually show up an hour later to clear the streets and vendors trickle in to set up shop. It wasn’t until the workers heard gunshots around 7:30 a.m. that they began to operate differently.
Bowman says the crew on site that day immediately ordered vendors to close their stalls and buyers and sellers to evacuate, which was also an LAPD directive. With the summer harvest at its peak, last weekend’s market was even more crowded with vendors than usual; some that specialize in summer-only produce are particularly dependent on the farmers’ market for their income.
SEE-LA receives a percentage of vendor sales each week to account for operating costs. Based on previous Sunday reports and what they gathered this week, Bowman collectively estimated a loss of approximately $175,000 in gross sales from over 250 suppliers and a loss of $16,000 to $17,000 for his employer on the sole basis of the Sunday closing.
To help recoup these losses, SEE-LA launched an online fundraiser this week to benefit farmers’ markets and other vendors as well as SEE-LA; at the time of writing, $6,295 had been raised of the $150,000 goal.
Finley Farms co-owner Christopher Finley said his family has been selling at Hollywood Farmers Market almost every Sunday for more than 16 years and in that time they have never experienced such a dramatic market closure. The farm lost $4,000 in gross sales, but Finely says they all feel lucky no one was hurt.
On Sunday, Brandon Finley, Christopher’s brother, left the Santa Ynez farm around 4 a.m. to drive what Christopher estimated to be 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of heirloom, cherry, and Early Girl tomatoes; many varieties of lettuce; four kinds of melons; three types of onions; cucumbers; zucchini; blackberries; strawberries; raspberries and more in Hollywood, as he does every week. He set up the stall, was only able to sell for 30 minutes, then was told to pack for evacuation and immediately returned to the farm with over three quarters of their haul, losing money the day of the sale.
We had a really nice load with a lot of different products, new products coming in, said Christopher Finley, so I was looking forward to being like, Okay finally we got some money making stuff oh , wait, too bad .
Farmers markets represent 75% of Finley Farms’ business, with the Hollywood Farmers Market being one of four weekly markets at which it sells, in addition to wholesale restaurant accounts and the operation of a small farm stand on its land in Santa Ynez. This farm stand ended up being the Finleys’ saving grace this week, where many of the last Sunday’s produce sold off to shoppers stopping in on Sunday and Monday.
My wife and I set up our farm stand on site at our home, and with [the closure] in mind, we started playing the poor-me card to our customers who showed up, he says. We thought, our market in Hollywood got canceled because some guy was shooting at his balcony; today is a great day for making pasta, you should definitely get that crate of San Marzanos you always talk about, and, you should make pickles with the pickled cucumbers.
The Finleys feel lucky to be running their own stand there, if not to recoup some of the financial loss, at least to make their work grow.
A harvest crew of eight had worked 10 hours on Saturday harvesting produce for the Sunday market, picking from the 70-acre farm throughout the day, then loading the truck in the evening.
We weren’t able to sell everything that came back from the Hollywood market, said Christopher Finely, but we made a pretty big dent. It’s just what it is, so you forget about it and move on. This weekend, they don’t know what market participation will be, whether buyers will be spooked by Sunday’s close or will be in full force to support. Either way, says Bowman, vendors at Hollywood Farmers Markets will be back and waiting to welcome them.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
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