SPRING HILL — Organizers of the Hernando County Farmers Market say they have been forced to put the weekly event on hold while they once again look for a new location.
Jodi Parresol, who along with two other partners organized the Saturday open-air market, said they were unable to negotiate a parking agreement with the owners of Coastal Way Plaza, next to the 2-acre parcel on Jacqueline Road where they have recently held the event.
"Adequate parking is key to being able to attract customers," Parresol said Thursday. "Without it, we're pretty much sunk."
Parresol and her partners launched the market to great fanfare in early September on a small plot of land at Cortez and Mariner boulevards owned by Brooksville businessman Jim Kimbrough. Over the next three Saturdays, the market grew from 50 vendors to 75.
But Parresol was unaware that their lease agreement didn't include use of the parking lot operated by Isram Realty, the South Florida firm that manages the Western Way shopping plaza adjacent to Kimbrough's property. Some store owners in the plaza complained that the extra traffic made it difficult for their customers to find parking spaces.
Parresol said she was told by Isram Realty representatives that if the market continued, she and her partners would face legal action. After scrambling to find another location, they were offered use of 2 acres next to the nearby Animal Health Veterinary Clinic, which is owned by Spring Hill veterinarian Dr. Deborah Rodriguez.
But with the farmers market regularly attracting in excess of 1,000 patrons and more than 70 vendors, parking once again became an issue.
Parresol said that a store manager at Coastal Way Plaza offered to help them get permission to use the parking lot behind the Sears store. But this week, she was told the agreement was rescinded.
"We had no other option but to contact our vendors and tell them they couldn't come," Parresol said. "It's sad, because for a lot of them, this was one of the only ways they could sell their products directly to the public."
Parresol said she has been looking at alternative sites in and around Spring Hill this week, but has yet to find anything of suitable size that is commercially zoned, which is required by the group's county permit.
Joann Beasley of Beasley Farms said she is confident that a new location will be found soon.
"It's something that's desperately needed on the west side of the county," Beasley said. "People will be ready to support it again whenever it comes back."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.