TNT Diner

A new farmers market is heading to Point Ruston. It launches Aug. 6

Pictured here are miniature tomatoes. Find produce such as tomatoes at the new Point Ruston Farmers Market that beings Aug. 6.
Pictured here are miniature tomatoes. Find produce such as tomatoes at the new Point Ruston Farmers Market that beings Aug. 6. AP file, 2016

Shoppers facing a dwindling farmers market in downtown Ruston now have a new market to visit that’s less than a mile away at Point Ruston.

The Point Ruston Farmers Market will open Aug. 6. In addition to food producers and farmers, the market will include craftspeople. About 25 to 30 vendors are expected every week at the shopping center on the Ruston waterfront.

The market will be from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. every Sunday through Sept. 24 at Point Ruston’s Grand Plaza.

The market is a merger of the fledgling North Pearl Farmers Market in downtown Ruston and a pilot market organized by Tacoma Farmers Market, which runs three markets in Tacoma.

The original idea was to start a Point Ruston market in addition to the North Pearl market, said Stacy Carkonen, executive director of the Tacoma Farmers Market association.

Backers saw the Point Ruston location as a boon that could help underwrite the expense of operating lower-traffic markets in Tacoma neighborhoods that need farmers markets because of a lack of access to fresh produce.

But there was a catch.

The commercial and residential development had a weekly summer concert series on Saturdays, the day Carkonen wanted to run the new market.

Sunday was the only option, but that was the same day as the North Pearl market.

“I called the North Pearl market and asked if we could set a meeting,” Carkonen said.

She and North Pearl Farmers Market managers came to an agreement. They would shut down the market on North Pearl and move many of its vendors to the Point Ruston market.

Carkonen’s organization offered financial compensation to cover costs for the North Pearl market.

The North Pearl market managers knew their year-old market had been struggling.

It lost its original high-visible location and had to move to a less desirable one, said one of the market founders, Juel Lugo of the Ruston business district. Customer traffic dropped precipitously after the move and fewer vendors participated.

The merge meant a disappointing end to the faltering market, but Lugo said ultimately a merger made the most sense.

Programs the market began, such as the popular children’s market program, will continue under the Tacoma Farmers Market organization, she said.

What’s still up in the air is what happens next for any seasonal market operating in that neighborhood.

Lugo said backers could launch another downtown Ruston market next year, but instead might look to host a harvest festival or another community event.

Carkonen said this year’s Point Ruston market is a pilot project and it’s unclear what future plans will be.

Meanwhile, another public market idea is brewing at Point Ruston.

Its leaders are working on plans to build a 30,000-square-foot retail space on the edge of the development that would be a year-round public market.

“The initial inspiration is based on the Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver B.C., one of my favorite places, especially on boat trips heading north, Point Ruston developer Mike Cohen said.

“We believe our public market will be a major destination market for both Tacoma's residents and visitors.”