By Kevin Zimmerman
When Bucks County, Pennsylvania based Quakertown Farmers Market and Flea Market uses its motto “It’s Fresher Here!” it is not just referring to the state of its produce and other wares; it is also denoting the fact that it came under new ownership earlier this year and, as such, has grand plans for an expansive future.
“We are looking to bring the market back to its golden heyday,” says John Chism, something of a mainstay himself, as he has served as Quakertown’s general manager for over 20 years and is part of the new ownership group. “We are reinvesting in the market, both in terms of infrastructure and décor. Our vision is to make it brighter and cleaner while maintaining the customer service and value that our customers have come to expect.”
To that end, ownership is adding such amenities as automatic doors, more ATM machines, refurbished rest rooms that are fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and adding central heat and air conditioning to several of its buildings, including its main farmers market building.
That edifice, which consists of 170,000 square feet, houses about 115 merchants and is actively seeking more. “We have generations of vendors and merchants here – second, third, and even a fourth-generation vendors who have been with us for over 50 years,” Chism notes. “But we would also like to bring in some more of what shoppers are increasingly looking for nowadays,” he adds. “Food-wise, shoppers are looking for items that are locally grown, organic, free range. They are also looking for designer-quality clothing, but at a discount.”
Ultimately, he says, Quakertown would like to replicate the prototypical Main Streets of yore, with barbershops, shoe repair and eyeglass stores existing alongside wineries, hearing aid services and other modern resources. When completed, such improvements will represent a significant facelift for Quakertown, which the Woldow family started in 1932 as a Saturday sale site on its farm. Other farmers joined in over time, and in the mid-1940s the market was firmly established with five additional buildings.
Chism was working as an executive at a real estate and development company and consulting on the side when he was personally recruited by Robert Woldow in the mid-’90s. “He had seen my resume and called me up at 10:30 on a Sunday night,” he recalls. “After we had talked for a while he asked me to talk with his son, and ultimately they made me an offer I could not refuse.”
Just as Chism has remained a constant at Quakertown, so too will the market remain in the titular borough, a border town of both the Delaware Valley and Lehigh Valley metropolitan areas. “There have been constant rumors in our industry that the property is being sold for development,” he says. “But the new ownership is very committed to keeping the market here and keeping it lively. We are not going anywhere.”
Quakertown Farmers Market & Flea Market
201 Station Rd.
Quakertown, PA 18951