By Kristine Lowder
“From the farm to your table” and “fresh ‘n wholesome” are more than slogans for the Grays Harbor Farmers Market, they’re a way of life. And, while the market has hopscotched all over the local map from its original 1974 location in Aberdeen to its current site on Riverside Avenue in Hoquiam, the market’s homegrown feel has never changed. Just ask resident baker Nancy Lachel, Deidra Williamson of Deidra’s Deli, or vendor Ellen Pickell of Ellen Pickell Studios.
Lachel joined the market in 1975 and runs Nancy’s Bakery, one of the market’s biggest sellers. She says the market was originally set up as a place where local farmers, gardeners and crafters could sell their extra goods and products. “It was like a backyard gardener type thing,” she says. “It brought the community together.”
The market was first located in Aberdeen where the current Pearsall Building stands. “That was our first two years,” explains Lachel. The outdoor market then moved to State Street in Aberdeen, then to Broadway in downtown Aberdeen.
“We were open from June until fall, or whenever the weather got bad,” Lachell recalls. The market’s first indoor site was on State Street near what is now the Breakwater Seafood and Chowder House. “That location proved to be too cold,” says Lachel. “Jams and vinegars would freeze.”
The market moved again to the old Wishkah Mall where TOP Foods, Ross and Mazatlan are now. It settled in to its current home on Riverside Avenue in Hoquiam in the mid ’90s with the help of then Hoquiam mayor, Phyllis Schrauger. Lachel credits Schrauger, the City of Hoquiam and Americorps for cleaning up the current site, an old machine shop, and creating space for the market. The current building was dedicated in 1995. Lachel says the market has done nothing but grow since.
“People really like finding unique gifts. We bring in some products that are in the Western Washington neighborhood that can be considered local,” says Latchell. Some of those products include an eclectic variety of arts and crafts creations from local artisans like Quinault-based Spirit Sisters Jewelry and Hoquiam’s Rainwater Botanicals.
The market’s refrigerated section features farm fresh organic eggs, bratwurst sausage, jalapeño pepperoni, and Purity organic juice drinks. Outside you can select fresh seasonal produce and browse an iridescent array of locally grown plants and flowers.
Spring break, summer vacation, the holidays and clam digging season are the busiest times at the market. “Sometimes we have nobody here and sometimes we have lines,” says Lachel. “The volume varies, but people come in and meet for lunch Monday through Friday. It’s kind of homey and cozy and people like to meet here.”
And, “meeting here” is what it’s all about at Deidra’s Deli. Owned and operated by Deidra Williamson, the deli is nestled in the back of the market. It’s earned “Best Deli” honors in the Best of Twin Harbors competition several years running.
Williamson, who has been at the market for 13 years, says the best part about working there is “being able to touch people in need.” She says that helping people and being available is what matters. “It’s not to make money,” Williamson says smiling. “But it’s to be there for people — laugh with them, cry with them, be there if they need a hug.”
Being there for one another and working as a team is a common theme at the Grays Harbor Farmers Market. Vendors each take one shift a week to take care of the whole market. For example, Ellen Pickell is a vendor. She gave this writer a guided tour during her shift.
An accomplished photographer and piano teacher, Pickell says she loves meeting the people who come in. “I get to see people from the community,” she says. Pickell calls her association with the market a “win-win” in which she gets to showcase her photography and “sometimes sell something.” Pickell operates Ellen Pickell Studios.
Lachel echoes the “win-win” sentiment. She says, “I’ve been with [the market] so long. What I have built from absolutely nothing has grown into its own thing and it’s been pretty amazing. I have a wonderful team working with me. It kind of keeps me going.”
Lachel’s team includes sisters Yanela and Lupe Castaneda. Yanela has been working at the bakery for about a year. She says she likes the baking and the community. “We’re so close. We’re like a big family here.”
Lupe Castaneda has been working at the bakery for nearly seven years. She says the bakery is a lot of fun. “I enjoy coming in, baking, and making people happy,” says Lupe. Baking blackberry pies and Danish pastries are her favorite. “People love our pies,” she says. “They fly out of here. Especially during holidays and festivals.” Blackberry items are top sellers when they’re in season. Also popular are toffee-coconut cookies, berry jams, Russian tea cakes, pecan and cranberry bars, and several varieties of fresh-baked bread.
Whether it’s the bakery, deli, local produce, or handmade arts and crafts, the Grays Harbor Farmers Market has all the “homegrown” items Harborites love — all under one roof.
The Grays Harbor Farmers Market is located at 1958 Riverside Avenue in Hoquiam and open seven days a week. The market is open Monday through Thursday 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m, Friday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. , and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Note: hours of operation are slightly different from those that appear on the web site. The hours listed here are the result of a phone interview with market staff.)