A new produce market is filling a void in downtown Comox.
Portside Produce opened recently, setting up stands at the corner of Comox Avenue and Port Augusta Street, the site of the old Lorne Hotel, which burned down 10 years ago.
The operators got the blessing from the property owners for the market site.
“They loved the idea,” says Adam Duncan, who is co-proprietor with Ben Zion.
“It was Mother’s Day weekend when we opened,” he adds.
The two are familiar with the world of greens. Duncan’s parents had a family farm outside Calgary, while Zion was a produce manager in the Victoria area.
“Produce is in my blood,” Zion says.
Another void they saw was a place for local farmers to sell their produce during the day throughout the week. As more produce comes available, their plan is to open up six days a week.
The farmer’s market approach works fine for weekends, but they wanted to provide a space on weekdays too.
“The concept is we’re helping local farmers,” Duncan says.
As well, it won’t operate as a farmers’ market, with different vendors’ stalls, though they would like to work with the town to expand their site.
They know there are many farmers growing, so they are hoping to connect with more. At present, they’re using four or five main producers, and they purchase the produce outright, not on consignment.
“There’s no risk to the farmer,” Duncan says.
For customers, they can provide farm fresh greens and flowers from their stand.
“I’m happy you’re here,” a woman tells Duncan while shopping on a Saturday morning.
Of late, they have had peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes, though they expect their stock will expand through the growing season.
“People want to know where the local food comes from,” Duncan says.
Much of it is grown in the Comox Valley, but they’ll also consider fruits and vegetables from other B.C. areas, such as fruit from the Okanagan in the summer.
“It’s as local as we can get,” Zion says.
Another touch is the small red barn out back in the parking lot. They fixed it up and local artist Terrie Anderson offered to provide some old photos from the Lorne days to put together a collage in order to spruce up the building. The site has also been spruced up with a grassy area out front, and they have more than 30 parking stalls available.