By Heidi Zemach for SCN
Happy customers, bakers and local craftspeople filled the Grazing Moose Summer Market and Artists’ Co-op building with hugs and laughter as it reopened for business Thursday, June 6th downtown, across the street from City Hall. They were eager to view Joanie Merritt’s new sale items and see the market’s renovations, made since a destructive fire in March burned out a side wall and entranceway. But mostly, they were there to greet Joanie, who has been working there until after midnight for the past three days in order to make the opening date possible.
“I’m so happy she’s open, it means summer’s here,” said Sharon Irvin, who glazes the beautiful, brightly colored pottery bowls and saucers that her husband Tom makes. “She’s a very fair person to sell pottery to,” she added.
“I’m very happy that Joanie has reopened. It’s a wonderful place, with lots of fresh produce and home-made bread as well as gifts,” said customer Sharon May-Ennis. She donated the moose-planter that sits outside the market, growing flowers, and says she likes to come visit it every so often. But what Sharon enjoys the most, she said, are the friendships you make and the general camaraderie that occurs at the local market, and of course the fresh, just-picked Alaska-grown produce and root vegetables. “It’s another gathering place for people from Seward,” she said.
Debra Lechner stopped in a little before 11:00 a.m. to deliver her first aromatic bundle of loaves, still warm from the oven. On Thursday’s she’s bringing in Gardner herb bread, Peasant bread and bacon and cheese rolls. On Fridays, Debra will bring home-baked Seeded Whole Grain Bread, English Muffin Bread, and Sun-dried Tomato/Basil Rolls. It’s always best to get there as close to 11:00 a.m. as possible on the days that they’re delivered, because the loaves tend to sell out pretty fast, according to Merritt.
“Choco-Mama”Amy Mow is working at a local bakery this summer, so can’t bring candy or cookies every week, but Joanie tells customers to watch for spontaneous appearances of her chocolate-covered home-made marshmallows. Anna Hoyman, a newcomer to Seward, will be baking specialty cupcakes and other goodies, however, starting next week.
Brenda Ballou has not only been busy making jewelry (check out her work on First Friday at Starbird Studio), she is also making embroidered felted beach rocks that would make great gifts or paperweights. She also has brought in some maple syrup, hand-tapped by her brother, in little maple leaf bottles.
In keeping with the store’s earth-friendly theme are small bags of “seed money” this year. These little realistic-looking paper coins are embedded with actual organic seeds, and they come in a variety of vegetables and wildflowers, herbs and mixed greens, all non-invasive naturally. Plant them and they will grow the plants they contain.
Joanie makes sure not to supply plastic bags for customers so they won’t damage the environment, but she sells a variety of cloth bags and woven wicker baskets to take their goodies home in, or suggests they just remember to bring their own. This year she’s also selling glass jars with glass or stainless steel straws or sippy cup lids to bring along with you for when you order drinks, and don’t want to use single-use plastic or styrophome ones. There are also stainless steel cups and recyclable straws for the youngsters, and stainless steel camp-style, earth-friendly containers for snacks or lunch.
Jeanie Glenn has a new display of her handmade reusable cloth diapers and baby wipes. Her diapers now come in preemie, small, medium and large sizes.
Many people, not least of all Merritt, were concerned about the market opening on time after the fire occurred two months ago. But plenty of local volunteers stepped up to help Joanie rebuild the side of the structure. They held silent auctions, fundraisers, and donated materials and their own labor. Although it still has a few outside improvements to be made such as the porch trim and insulation, the inside wall has new sheetrock, covered by a fresh coat of paint, and looks great. So Joanie was very happy and grateful to her friends and neighbors to be back in business again, and able to continue this local summer tradition.
The market is located at 312 5th Ave, and is open Thursday through Sunday from 10am-4pm. It accepts Senior Farmer’s Market Vouchers and WIC Farmer’s Market and Vegetable Coupons. 907-491-1076.