BY SHARON GITTLEMAN
ROYAL OAK – For nearly 80 years, people have come to the Royal Oak Farmers Market to buy fresh tomatoes, sweet corn, apples and other fruits of nature’s bounty. Some enjoy browsing the antique booths stocked with jewelry and other estate sale treasures while they chat with neighbors looking for their own bargains.
Next spring, visitors will find a big change at one of their favorite meeting grounds.
Renovations are underway.
“You won’t have water pouring on your head when it’s raining,” said Barry Shulman, vice chair of the Farmers Market Committee.
Work on the historic structure housing the market began just a few weeks ago – starting with a new roof.
“The roof will be placed on top of the old roof – about six inches above,” said Shulman.
A porch will be added to one side of the building to add more space for vendors and an entrance will be enhanced to ease the flow of visitors to and from the site.
The building will be painted, the electrical wiring will be revamped, the heating and cooling system will be upgraded, and other modifications will be made to comply with the city’s fire code, said Shulman.
“We can’t lease out the building for a special event because we don’t have a fire suppression system,” he said. “This plan puts a sprinkler system in the building.”
The market will be open during construction.
The revitalization project, expected to be completed next spring, will cost $1.2 million, with the bulk of the funding culled from market revenues.
Royal Oak’s Downtown Development Authority chipped in with a gift of $500,000 to help finance the spruce-up, Shulman said.
Shulman sat on the committee that oversaw the renovation plans.
“We spent two years meeting with architects,” he said.
Shulman understands the site’s operations from all sides – as a member of the market management oversight committee and as a vendor. Shulman operates Decades at the market, selling vintage collectables and jewelry.
The market offers small retailers like him an invaluable opportunity, he said.
“It’s a part-time venue with a built-in customer base,” said Shulman. “There aren’t many places like that in this area. It makes it quite unique.”
Visitors can find everything from an heirloom necklace to a set of antique cookie cutters at the booths that line the market’s walls. They can also purchase organic produce, grains, breads, honey and free-range poultry to build healthier diets.
“It lets the customer know the farmer – they are meeting the person who is growing the food,” he said.
Members of the LGBT community are frequent market visitors and can often be found selling merchandise at the antique and craft booths, said Shulman, who is gay.
“It’s been immensely popular with gays – both men and women,” he said.
The Royal Oak Farmers Market operates from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., on Saturdays and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Market is located at 316 E. 11 Mile in Royal Oak.