ALEXANDRIA, VA–Alexandria is famous for many factors, one of those factors its farmer’s markets. One particular market, the West End Farmers Market in Cameron Station (4800 Brenman Park Dr), is a major draw for locals and visitors and vendors alike.
The West End Farmers Market was started approximately 16 years ago. In 2018, Rubie Williams, Bernice Williams, Whitley Johnson, and Dawnta Million took over as new the new management team. Despite an ensuing pandemic, the market has thrived under their management, attracting more vendors and visitors each year.
Manager Rubie Williams states, “There is no cap or limit on the types of vendors. All are welcome. We feel that small businesses should have a chance even if it is crafts, food, soap, or candles.”
Rubie was already a vendor at the West End Farmers Market before she became a manager, as a mobile hair stylist. She details her transition from vendor to manager.
“My aunt is always out there looking for ways to invest and for the family to grow. She called us with this opportunity and she’s been here ever since. People call us and tell us [the market] keeps getting better and better. I think the amount of customers we’ve been able to reach–a consistent base of customers who come every week and new customers–the support we get, and the expanding amount of vendors… everybody here brings quality, if it is something consumable it is going to be good.”
The West End Farmers Market is open every Sunday from 8:30am to 1pm. On the first Sunday in June 2022, some 2,000 visitors patronized the stands. Residents of the neighborhood stroll in with their dogs and children, joggers slow down to walk through on their morning route, Alexandrians from the east end even venture over to enjoy the variety of vendors.
One resident, Michael Levy, has been coming to the market every Sunday with his dog Joey and his wife. since the market first began.
“It’s just very nice,” Levy states. “It’s grown gradually, and it has had a wonderful selection of different vendors. For us it is a nice walk, about a mile each way, so we walk the dog, come here, get some stuff. It is a steadfast market for us.”
Levy loves to come for the fresh fruit and vegetables, to see all the new craft stands, and to enjoy the green scenery that rolls outward behind the tents. He and his wife plan to keep coming to the market as long as they live.
The West End Farmers Market boasts five farmers, all of whom have been vendors for over a decade: Diaz Berries, FJ Medina and Sons Farm, J&W Valley View Farms, Penn Farm, and Papa’s Market.
Other vendors include Kaye’s Mini Donuts, a saxophone player, an Ethiopian coffee truck, Old Blue BBQ, a man who makes candles out of rocks, a soap maker, a hand-made guacamole stand, a compost bin, Passionately Pets (for all the four-legged patrons), of course the ever-essential flower tent, a bakery that always sells out, imported clothing, jewelry, and chocolates and more!
Here is what long-time vendor Papa’s Market, a vending subsidiary of Reed’s Orchard near Gettysburg, has to say about their years at the market.
“We were a founding member of the West End Farmers Market, and I love Rubie and this neighborhood,” says David Argento, owner of Papa’s Market. “My brother has been doing this market for 16 years now, my dad was a founding member.”
Papa’s Market travels all the way from Pennsylvania every Sunday, but it has managed to make the West End neighborhood its home away from home.
“We know everyone in this neighborhood. We love this place. We’ve grown our supply and our patronship. People are constantly asking for more things.”
During covid a lot of people ventured to markets in lieu of the grocery store, so the West End saw a boom in requests for products. Now that society has attained a new state of normal, more vendors are showing up to fulfill those requests, and more patrons are showing up to fill their bags.
While a large percentage of the customers to the market are regulars, that does not stop them from finding new things to love about it, or from bringing new friends. Argento remarks that it is “a neighborhood market in the best sense of the word. The neighborhood supports us and we support the neighborhood.”
Newer vendor Old Blue BBQ shares the sentiment. The company has been at the West End Farmers Market for three seasons, but Market Manager Eric Kuldell is new to the team this season. He says, “I’ve only had very nice customers. Here people appreciate us and show love and this is by far my favorite market. You have dogs, a beautiful park, a good crowd, everything is so nice.”
To quote David Argento, the West End Farmers Market is truly a neighborhood market in the best sense of the word. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and this is what this market is; a neighborhood village. Karla Medina was working at the market before she gave birth to her son; now he works the stand alongside her. Nayeli Beltran from Penn Farms joined the fray at ten years old; now she is 22 and running the stand by herself. Those are just two of the countless stories of growth amongst this community.
While the vendors grow up and grow old here, the number of visitors grows every year, too. Even on a rainy day, they show up in droves with reusable bags in hand, to fill up on staple items and new finds. You never know what you might find to love next at the West End Farmers Market, but you can always know it will be good.
To view the full list of vendors, visit westendfarmersmarket.org.
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