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Ithaca Week

Summer businesses cut back for cold season

By Kellen Beck and Will LeBlond

Summer-centric businesses in Ithaca are slowing down as fall begins and the weather grows colder, adjusting in different ways for the approaching dip in income.

Farms, golf courses, ice cream shops and other local summer hubs are forced to make changes once the warm summer weather leaves the Ithaca area.

The Ithaca Farmers’ Market, a popular weekend destination for fresh produce stocked by local farmers and merchants, begins to dwindle in business once the summer growing season is over, manager Aaron Munzer said.

“The market does slow down,” he said about the upcoming season. “I would say there are less markets every week and there is less local produce available. But we take the winter to plan initiatives and update our website and do the kind of things we have to put off during the summer because there’s so much going on.”

In November, the hours of the outdoor market at Steamboat Landing are cut down. The market moves inside to The Space @ Greenstar in January to stay out of the cold until April.

“At Greenstar we have approximately 35 to 40 vendors,” Munzer said. The outdoor market can feature up to 88.

Vendor Marcia Bauchle from the Straight-Way Farm in Montour Falls, N.Y., has sold vegetables, maple syrup, soap, meats and eggs at the Farmers’ Market for an upward of eight years.

Bauchle said the farm will be moving with the market to The Space @ Greenstar once the weather turns. Farmers’ markets make up a significant portion of the farm’s profits throughout the year.

“We probably make 60 percent of our income from the farmers’ markets,” she said.

In the summer, the farm goes to three different markets, which Bauchle said is a lot of work but it means more profit for the business. But in the winter there is much less competition.

“We do really well in winter because there’s not as many vendors,” she said.

To keep selling produce throughout the winter, Munzer said vendors will store and save produce in coolers and refrigerators. Some continue to grow fresh produce in greenhouses and high tunnels, which are plastic shelters for plants that work in a similar fashion to greenhouses.

Farmers aren’t the only ones that need to adjust for the winter. Ice cream businesses often cut down on hours or even close down during the colder season, like Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shop on West Seneca Street.

At Purity Ice Cream in downtown Ithaca, scooper Honor Meyerhoff said the business doesn’t close for the winter but does change its hiring practices.

“They don’t take high schoolers much during the winter,” he said. “They want more full time people who can just be there all day. They have less staff.”

With less business, labor hours decrease and the store doesn’t stay open as late. To stimulate business, Meyerhoff said the store began serving breakfast on the weekends and has plans to start serving lunch as well.

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