Case Study: Brattleboro Winter Farmers’ Market

When Challenges Force Reflection

In 2005, Post Soil Solutions, a small grassroots non-profit, launched The Brattleboro Winter Farmers’ Market (WFM). Located at the southern tip of Vermont, hugging the New Hampshire border, the 2018/19 season marks the Winter Market’s 13th year in business.  

But in 2016 the Market was facing increased costs for the site where they’d been holding operations since day one. The best option for offsetting those costs was limited by space constraints and they didn’t have the ability to scale up. A community gathering was called to address the challenges and their RFP for a feasibility grant led them to Kitchen Table Consultants.

Understanding the Opportunity  

Jen Brodsky, KTC Co-Founder, began by recognizing that the Market’s biggest challenge was actually an opportunity to revitalize their operation. The increasing costs lit a fire that also brought to light additional pain points that may not have been addressed otherwise because until then everything was deemed “okay”. Working alongside their Market Manager, Sherry Maher, and Steering Committee member, Janice Baldwin, as well as the committee, vendors and more, KTC set out to identify a stable space that checked multiple boxes for the Market. This was done via:

  • Interviews and site visits
  • Supported negotiations
  • Demographics/trends analysis
  • Scenario evaluations based on 26 key metrics
  • Vendor and customer surveys

“[Jen’s] insight was really valuable, but her ability to walk through our circumstances and work with the different players…meeting potential landlords, vendors, and the steering committee…it was just fabulous.” – Sherry Maher

Through the process KTC was able to define stumbling blocks and concerns for both customers and vendors as well as overcome hurdles in obtaining a new audience.

Staying Committed Through Change

Sherry and Janice both knew that beyond sourcing a new space, Brattleboro WFM would also need help with tools and organization. Noah Munro, KTC Entrepreneur in Residence, introduced a tool that would allow them to explore four different scenarios — their current location and three additional options.

“Noah put us through a wrenching financial modeling. We have a very complicated pricing structure for vendors but it was really useful to have Noah’s information available to the vendors when they were making decisions so they could see dollars and cents…see that the work had been done and it wasn’t just a gut decision.” – Janice

KTC’s tools and resources allowed Sherry and Janice to compare properties in a way they would not have thought of or been able to do themselves. This included qualitative, quantitative and financial data, as well as a detailed forecast and scenario evaluation for each potential property.

This tool built Sherry and Janice’s confidence and allowed them to look at the process with a strategic eye, while continuing to use Jen and Noah as a sounding board for questions. “If it wasn’t for Noah pushing us to say ‘ask this’ we wouldn’t have made the deal that we did with the new venue.” – Sherry

Feels Like Home Already

Brattleboro WFM signed a lease in June 2018. Sherry has already used Noah’s tool for circumstances they plan to roll out on the ground and she plans to continue to utilize it for future situations.

Their new location is in downtown Brattleboro and checks all the boxes:

  • Close to a food coop, main street, walkable neighborhoods, budding real estate projects, and the New England youth theatre  
  • Double the space
  • More room for vendors (and then some)
  • Space for kids
  • Ample free parking

Both Sherry and Janice expressed their beliefs that “where we’re ending up is and was the best place for us.”

The Importance of Being Open

While they recognize the successful acquisition of their new home as a result of their relationship with KTC, both parties agree that Sherry and Janice’s willingness to “open everything up and put it on the table” was critical. Sherry and Janice had a current read of their circumstance — not just numbers on a sheet of paper. More importantly, they were accepting of change, as long as it happened with clarity and stability.

Brattleboro Winter Farmers’ Market Website and Facebook