City decides against ban on non-Evanston bakers at farmers’ market

Billy Kobin, Reporter

Evanston officials announced last week they will not implement a ban on non-Evanston bakers contributing to the Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market despite city staff internally agreeing to such a restriction last summer.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said in a memo on the city’s website on March 22 that the ban was put in place “based on complaints from some Evanston-based bakeries that there were too many out-of-town bakers represented at the market.”

Upon inquiry, I learned this change in rule was not shared in a timely basis by city staff with the bakers or the Friends of the Evanston Farmers’ Market,” Bobkiewicz wrote. “Bakers had already applied for the 2016 market and would have no ability to make other arrangements for the 2016 season when many learned of this change.”

Seven out-of-town bakeries are set to appear again at this year’s market, which starts May 7 and is run by the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department. Evanston-based Bennison’s Bakery and Great Harvest Bread Co. will be at the market as well.

Skokie-based Sweety Pies Bakery has set up at the Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market for the past four years, selling a variety of items including pies, scones and gluten-free treats, co-owner and business manager Jason Davidson said.

In response to the city’s decision to initially ban Sweety Pies and other non-Evanston bakeries from the farmers’ market, Sweety Pies posted on Facebook on March 19 that it was “disappointed” and called it “flat out discrimination.” Davidson said the outpouring of support and concern from fans that contacted city officials helped in rescinding the ban.

Obviously the firestorm that was created helped (city staff) realize what the public really wanted,” Davidson said.

Dave Schaps, owner of Evanston-based Great Harvest Bread Co., said “the city’s going to do what they’re going to do” in regards to rescinding the ban.

“Life goes on,” Schaps said. “We’ll keep making phenomenal products and people will keep buying them.”

The Evanston ordinance governing farmers’ markets states that all bakers at markets must be licensed by the city and lists a series of stipulations regarding bread products sold at the market. However, Bobkiewicz wrote that vendors have regularly sold baked goods other than bread as well, as the ordinance has not been strictly enforced.

“There’s still a battle ahead of us as far as getting the ordinance updated to be more inclusive of non-Evanston-based businesses,” Davidson said.

Bobkiewicz said he has asked Lawrence Hemingway, director of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department, to work with “all interested parties” during the spring and summer to address issues and propose city code amendments to City Council no later than Nov. 1.

“It is my goal that the market reflect the needs and standards of the community into the future and that rules be established that are fair to all concerned,” Bobkiewicz said.

Davidson said he hopes city officials see how non-Evanston bakers contribute to the Evanston community and economy. Sweety Pies donates to more than 10 charities in Evanston and helps the farmers’ market grow by bringing in customers, Davidson said.

We feel like we bring a lot of value to the city of Evanston by being a great destination for families and people to come and spend their Saturdays,” he said.

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