ENCINITAS — In March 2013, Alexandra Palombi-Long started selling her fine French cuisine at a stand in the Leucadia Farmers Market.
Her stand was so successful that Palombi-Long began looking for a brick-and-mortar location. She found one — just across the tracks from the market that propelled her popularity.
Palombi-Long, a native Parisian, is one of several success stories that have spawned from the Leucadia Farmers Market, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary this Sunday at its Paul Ecke Central Elementary location.
While she said her cafe’s clientele has grown beyond her following at the market, she said the market gave her the opportunity to fine-tune her craft.
“The farmer’s market helped me realize that people liked my product and I needed to find a good location that fit my style and go from there,” Palombi-Long said.
Carris Rhodes, executive director of the Leucadia 101 Main Street Association, said that the market has provided entrepreneurs — especially those in the food and agricultural business — with a low-cost way to test their wares.
After start-up costs that include permits from the county health department and agricultural commissioner, booth rents at the farmers market range from as little as $35 per session or 10 percent of the day’s profits, whichever is higher.
“It has been a wonderful, low-cost way to start and incubate your business,” Rhodes said. “You can test your product with low risk and overhead and see if the community is excited about it or interested in it.”
In some cases, the businesses succeed and graduate to physical locations.
Palombi-long and Kaz Murphy and Jacqueline Grad are among the proprietors who started in the open-air market and have parlayed their success to physical locations. Murphy, a musician and songwriter, and Grad started selling cold-pressed organic juices at a booth in the market in January 2012.
Almost two years later in October 2013, the couple opened Fully Loaded Micro Juicery.
“Encinitas is a seriously knowledgeable community, and when we went out and they saw what our product was, they went for it,” Murphy said. “Just as well, we got educated by the people that would come here…it was a learning experience for everyone.”
Murphy said by the time they were ready to open the juice bar’s doors, they had over 600 people on their email list.
“I think if you have a good, solid, honest product, and if you are out front with people and not giving them a line of bull, I think the farmer’s market is a perfect place to connect with the community,” Murphy said. “It sets you up for having an audience. In our case, it really helped us hit the ground running.”
Leucadia 101 officials credit the success of the market over the past 10 years to the partnership between downtown businesses and the Paul Ecke Central Parent-Teachers Association, as well as management of the market under longtime manager Ron LaChance.
“It’s been a serendipitous partnership,” said Morgan Mallory, a founding board member of Leucadia 101. “And that has been augmented by the hiring of Ron LaChance, whose cheerful caring and attention to detail…has helped create an environment for the community to come and enjoy their neighbors and what their neighbors are producing.”
Palombi-Long said she would recommend the market for people in her position two years ago.
“One hundred percent I believe it helps people put their product out there without having to open a store without all of the hassle or work of opening a real business,” she said. “It was good for us.”
RSVP for Sunday’s Anniversary Farmers Market Tour at firstname.lastname@example.org.