After a monthlong hiatus, the Maxwell Market will reopen Thursday, Aug. 27, with the help of grants from the city of Hermiston and Umatilla County.
Owner Mitch Myers said the market closed for a week at the end of July when temperatures in Hermiston were expected to reach 110 degrees, and then remained closed when Umatilla County was put back to baseline status in response to rising COVID-19 numbers.
“We had to make a decision at that point,” he said.
Unlike many farmer’s markets that are run as nonprofits by volunteers, the Maxwell Market is run as a subsidiary of Myers’ businesses. He said he has always run it as a benefit to the community, and hasn’t turned a profit on it, but revenue from vendors renting space does help him pay for the entertainment, staff and other expenses.
This year, however, had brought less revenue as vendors have had to be spaced out more for social distancing and some have dropped out due to low turnout. On top of that, Myers said, it is harder for him to subsidize the market when his other businesses, such as the Maxwell Event Center and Nookie’s Restaurant, have been closed and not bringing in any revenue.
As he was deciding whether to reopen the market for the last six weeks of the season, he said, he reached out to Umatilla County Commissioner George Murdock and Mark Morgan at the city of Hermiston, and both agreed to give the market a grant to cover some of Myers’ expenses and to cover all vendors’ fees for the rest of the season so they don’t have to pay to set up shop each week.
Myers said the private-public partnership will benefit more than just the vendors.
“I think the market is good for the community,” he said. “I think it’s important for the vendors, and it’s important for people socially, to give them some sense of normalcy. I still believe the community needs some normalcy.”
Myers said the market has stringent safety protocols for COVID-19 in place. Vendors must wear masks, social distancing measures are in place and surfaces are sanitized regularly.
Starting Thursday, Aug. 27, the Maxwell Market will run from 4-7 p.m. each Thursday at the Maxwell Pavilion on the corner of South First Street and Locust Avenue.