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Sydney's Owner to Sue Chamber Over Farmers Market Policy

Erin Finley grills the Greater Westhampton Chamber for its policy that forbids Main Street business owners from participating in the market.

Erin Finley, owner of and president of the , said she plans to file a lawsuit against the over a new chamber policy that restricts Main Street businesses from participating in the popular .

Finley, who said she submitted paperwork to the chamber to sell biscotti at the market at a shared booth with another vendor this season, said she learned on Monday that she is no longer permitted to sell at the market because she owns a business on Main Street.

"I am outraged not only as a store owner, but as the president of WHAM as well," Finley said. "Why would an organization which has a sole purpose of promoting business hinder it?"

Finley said she believes the decision was made as a direct attack against WHAM.

"I think this was a personal decision. I think [the chamber] is angry that WHAM exists. The chamber is so disconnected with the businesses on Main Street."

Chamber President Dwane Wagner, however, said the policy was adopted by the chamber board two months ago to set rules for the market, which he said has grown far larger than the chamber had ever anticipated with 43 vendors and a waiting list.

Wagner said the chamber board thought it made sense to take a look at the policy to make sure that the market maintains a proper mix of vendors to attract customers.

"The main purpose of the market is to enhance business for all the merchants of the village by drawing new people into the village by providing unique products just steps from Main Street," said Wagner, adding that most visitors to the farmers market don't go home after shopping. Instead, he said they wind up taking a walk down Main Street.

Finley disagreed and said, "Don't get me wrong, I love the farmers market as a customer, but it does nothing for Main Street. Not a single person comes down from the farmers market."

She also argued some vendors at the farmers market are in direct competition with Main Street businesses.

Wagner said that only one Main Street business has ever applied to take part in the market. Though he did not name Sydney's, Finley confirmed that she formally applied and was accepted as of last month.

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Ralebird May 10, 2012 at 04:55 AM
I understand her point. However, having been sold rancid fried chicken (the ptui heard round the beach) at Sydney's in the past, it may eliminate some legal problems for the market organizers in the future.
Robert Murray May 10, 2012 at 12:08 PM
A little bit much to say "not a single person comes down from the farmers market." I think she might be wrong there!
Erin B. Finley May 10, 2012 at 12:39 PM
If brought to my attention I would have apologized for anything sold that was not up to par. It is our goal to always provide fresh, wonderful food but if this was to happen obviously there was a problem. Perhaps you should have come by at the time so that we were able to rectify it. My apologies.
Jackie Bennett May 10, 2012 at 12:55 PM
The market does indeed bring new people to the village but then provides most everything they came to town to buy. Therefore, it has always been unlikely that many or any of those "new people" have spent their money any place else.
Erin B. Finley May 10, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Yes Bob, perhaps that is an exaggeration, some, and I mean a small some, do travel down to Main St. I love the Farmer's Market and what it provides but I do feel that there is a strong disconnect between it and Main St. Now to add insults to injury not only are direct competitors to Main St. permitted at the farmers market, Main St. merchants are prohibited. My purpose at the Farmer's Market was twofold; to provide a service I was asked to by the chamber after the market lost a vendor and to attempt to expose Main St. and all it has to offer to the customer base already patronizing the market
ML May 10, 2012 at 01:21 PM
I think it's all a shame that for such a small village it comes to this. I don't see why anyone should be excluded if their goods fit the purpose of the farmers market. I do not think Erin should be excluded or anyone else if they file properly etc. I do think the farmer's market enhances the town and offers something that people really enjoy. I think anything that does that helps the town and its vitality. Can't we all play in the sandbox nicely? All business is good for us. It is discrimination to not let Erin in because she owns a business is my opinion. What's next? because someone is not in the chamber organization?
Vanster May 10, 2012 at 01:50 PM
I have to say I agree with the Chamber. I think it is a great idea to protect business people who wouldn't normally have access to the WHB market. Syndey's has a store front, what more do they want?
Local Guy May 10, 2012 at 11:32 PM
Do you actually realize how much effort and expense it takes to run any business,now compound that with a seasonal area like Westhampton. How many good ran companys with great products that suceed in other like towns (Southampton,Easthampton,etc. Dont succeed in thelocal town. Anything that helps any business stay in business,(farmersMarkets,and less anti-business measures) should be good for the Town and each hard working, taxpaying business owner. Any avenue to promote and keep a business profitable should be allowed.
jim May 11, 2012 at 01:47 AM
Clue me in here? Erin and others like her pay a heavy rent in Westhampton and the upkeep on the store and generally taxes as well. Yes, even in February when no one is here. Then you bring in people who pay a six hour booth fee to the chamber to sell their product and Erin is supposed to sit around and watch those dollars fly right by. I think the chamber is totally wrong not allowing her to participate. "Jimbo"

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