2016-10-27 / Front Page

Saco River Market moves to downtown Biddeford

By Anthony Aloisio
Staff Writer

SACO/BIDDEFORD – Oct. 22 was Saco River Market’s last day on Saco Island. Starting Oct. 29, the market will set up for the winter season at 18 ½ Crescent St. in Biddeford. The market announced the move on its Facebook page on Oct. 16; it is currently located at 110 Main St. in Saco, which is part of the property known in Saco as “Unit 91.” According to Irene Lim, president of the market’s steering committee, the ownership of their soon-tobe former location is in an uncomfortable state of flux.

“(The land) belongs to the city of Saco right now, so they’re in the process of selling it,” Lim said. “Which means that we couldn’t stay there because we wouldn’t have a guaranteed length of time that we could stay.”

“When they sell it, we’re up to the vagaries of the new owner,” Lim continued. “It wouldn’t be fair to the farmers if you start a season and then you can’t finish it.”

Saco took title to Unit 91 on Jan. 11 this year by foreclosure, according to Saco City Administrator Kevin Sutherland. “The prior owners, a series of LLCs, were facing tax liens from the city totaling around $26,000, which they were unable to pay along with other debts.”

“When the city took over, it was the same management company,” Lim said about that change in ownership, “so we just delivered the (rent) checks to them.”

Since that time, the city’s business has been to dispose of the property in the most prudent way feasible.

“We’re not in the business to be owning property,” Sutherland said. “Yet, we’re managing property.”

Saco issued a request for proposals for purchase and use of the land in August. Recently the deadline for requests was extended to Nov. 30 to allow time for the city to complete an engineering study on replacing the property’s heating plant.

Lim and other market vendors are optimistic about the new location which, Lim said, they found and decided on between September and October. The building is the former St. John Episcopal Church, Lim said, and is now the location of the Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center. The building is owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Maine and Seeds of Hope, a lessee, will sublet the space to the market. According to Lim, the building owners have been accommodating.

“They were flexible to our needs,” Lim said. “In that, in summer we would not be able to pay as much and in the winter we could pay more.”

“It made us feel very comfortable,” Lim added.

“We are very excited about having them upstairs,” wrote the Rev. Shirley Bowen, Seeds of Hope’s executive director, in an email to the Courier.

“What we know about nonprofits is that we must work together in order to serve the people we serve efficiently and with the best positive outcomes. The space has been empty for the past two years, so we are delighted that it can be put to use.”

Lim is also excited about the location’s character.

“The other reason we all liked it is because it is the sanctuary of the old church,” Lim said. “It’s more interesting than just a commercial place. It has history.”

“We looked at commercial places and we were all like ‘no heart, no soul,” Lim added.

“We’re really excited about our new home,” said Sue Davis, a vendor with the market, who sells crafts.

According to both Lim and Davis, one big benefit of the new location is the size.

“It’s significantly smaller, which is good,” Davis said. “As you walk into the market, if you see a lot of empty space, it appears to be less vibrant.”

“The one thing that really hurts us in summer time is that we look like we’re really small,” Lim said. “I always point out to people, ‘we have the same number of vendors as a lot of summer markets out there.’ It’s just that it looks really sparse because we’re in such a big space.”

According to Lim, Oct. 29 will be a sort-of “soft opening” for the market at the new location. A grand opening and ribbon cutting is planned for Nov. 5 at 10 a.m.

Contact Staff Writer Anthony Aloisio at news@inthecourier.com.

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