New Amsterdam's Robert LaValva Looks Forward to Next Year's Market, Which Is Set to Return in the Spring
A scene from September's New Amsterdam Market
Though it seems it was just yesterday, rather than three months ago, that the New Amsterdam Market returned to the South Street Seaport, the last market of the year will take place this Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Though it's been a whirlwind of a season for the market's director, Robert LaValva, he's already deeply entrenched in plans for next year: "We haven't worked out all the details with the city, but we know they're supportive of the idea," he says. "We'll start the season earlier, sometime in the spring. There's no exact date yet."
Aside from an earlier start date, there are other changes in the works, LaValva says. "We've seen the market gain in support and are preparing to launch a membership program." The cost of membership will be a "very low rate...as a way of encouraging as many people as possible to support us" -- LaValva's guessing it will be around $25. He's hoping that a membership program will work in concert with a formal market committee that will "help create the rules of the market," so that members can also have a say in its development.
Having paying supporters will also provide the market with a more formalized support base, LaValva believes. "If you pay, you've taken the extra step to really identify yourself as someone solidly behind the idea," he says. "That's the most important aspect of the whole program -- we have x-many thousand of paid supporters, hopefully, who want to see this happen. We know this type of market will succeed if it has a real support base."
Looking back on this season has provided LaValva with ideas about how to help the market evolve. Initially, when the market was "still a bit of a festival," prepared foods were some of the biggest sellers, but as it became more of a regular event, "we saw vendors selling whole foods like meat and cheese begin to start selling out; patrons began to treat it as a market and were buying ingredients for cooking at home." One request those patrons made repeatedly was for more produce, so LaValva says that will be a more prominent feature of next year's market, while prepared foods will be de-emphasized. "We want to keep it very balanced," he says. "We always want to have [prepared foods] there -- they're part of what makes the market a place to visit -- but to be conscious of limiting that so it never loses its identity as a market." More generally, he wants to keep working with all of the New Amsterdam's vendors, who "by and large are embracing the philosophy of the market."
Although the market's lack of entry and exit points make it difficult to gauge its attendance levels, LaValva estimates that each one has drawn 5,000 to 7,000 people. Much of that estimation is based upon how much food vendors have sold out of, but one thing that's certain is the effects of the numbers on neighboring businesses. Independent shop owners "tell us that their business quadruples every market day," LaValva reports. "People are going to places like Jack's Coffee or Bowne Printers; these little shops are being rediscovered or discovered for the first time, which shows the potential that this market has to generate economic activity in that part of the city."