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Downtown farm markets harvest controversy

Jason Singer • Jun 8, 2010 at 12:53 AM

There's nothing like an old-fashioned food fight to kick off summer in Sandusky.

Sandusky Main Street executive director John Lippus has taken aim at organizers of a new downtown farmers market, claiming the market's name conflicts with a name Sandusky Main Street has used for its years-old farmers market.

In an e-mail sent Friday to community members, Lippus accused the new, Friday-afternoon farmers market of creating an "adverse and hostile environment" by using a name similar to the existing market's.

Sandusky Main Street operates a farmers market on Saturday mornings, while the new market is positioned solely for Friday afternoons.

Lippus asked the new market's planners to immediately choose a different name and change its promotional materials, suggesting the similar names are confusing for vendors and customers.

"It's for these and other significant reasons" that Main Street makes this request, Lippus' e-mail said.

But co-founders of the new market -- Josh Pribanic and Lauren Berlekamp -- aren't backing down.

Rather, Pribanic and Berlekamp said they hope the two markets can focus on the positives, like bringing more people downtown and promoting local food.

"We believe the markets are not meant to compete with one another, but rather work in harmony together," Pribanic and Berlekamp said in an e-mail to Lippus and other community leaders.

Pribanic and Berlekamp said they hope to use revenue from their market's lot fees to create a permanent downtown location where local farmers can sell products.

"Upon every chance, we suggest to vendors that they make an appearance at both markets so as to further their business," Pribanic and Berlekamp's e-mail said.

Main Street's Saturday market goes by three variations of the same name: Sandusky Farmer's Market, Sandusky Farmers' Market, and -- after recently registering a new name with the Ohio Secretary of State's office -- Sandusky Farmers Market.

The new Friday farmers market uses the name Sandusky Farmers' Market.

In a e-mail sent Monday to community leaders, Berlekamp and Pribanic said several organizations have operated a Sandusky Farmers' Market in the last 25 years.

Main Street didn't start the farmers market, they said, and Main Street doesn't own the name.

The two also don't think the similar names will create long-term confusion for vendors or customers. A farmers market on Friday could simply cater to people who don't want to wake up on Saturday mornings.

"Both the public and the farmers are perfectly capable of recognizing that one market is on Saturday in one location, and that another is on Friday in different location," Pribanic and Berlekamp's e-mail said.

Their e-mail continues, "If Sandusky Mainstreet's efforts were focused on promoting the Saturday market rather than attempting to defame the Friday market, we can assure you that the fear of confusion would be non-existent."

Several residents and vendors have weighed in on the issue.

Wes Poole, who received the back-and-forth e-mails, said Pribanic and Berlkekamp's e-mails were "open and inviting," while Main Street's are "self-serving, divisive and bound to serve up a cloud of controversy over the farmers markets that will likely discourage participation in one or the other market by vendors and customers."

Other residents said the similar names might, in fact, confuse customers.

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