In Facebook posts yesterday, Kauffman’s Produce and the Lebanon Farmers Market announced a parting of ways with the locally-based produce vendor discontinuing operations at the market location.
Neither Facebook post offered a specific reason, although the Farmers Market announcement included this aside:
We are sorry to see Kauffman Produce leave the market. However, we have raised our standards and our new management team wants only the best for our community and our customers.
Reaction to the market’s Facebook post saw some users expressing dismay at the “passive aggressive” nature of the sentence quoted above, with many noting they would miss the produce stand. This post has since been deleted.
The Farmers Market is currently owned by Tom Morrissey, a local businessman and real estate investor who owns a number of buildings in the area, and his wife, Joya, is a co-manager of the venture. In the Facebook thread, she responded to one criticism of the “standards” line by saying, “That’s not at all what it means. There were many issues that are not appropriate for a public forum.”
Reached by phone this morning, Joya clarified her comments, noting that the market had found issues with Kauffman’s keeping past-fresh produce, as well as delinquent rent payments and concerns about labor compensation. “I hold this market to high standards,” noted Joya. She says there was also an unsuccessful attempt to have the stand remedy some of these issues in exchange for relieving portions of the accrued debt.
Kauffman’s take on the situation differs from Joya’s.
Kauffman’s is operated by Wilmer Kauffman, who was reached by phone this morning. Kauffman acknowledged, “yes, sometimes Saturday evenings when everyone’s tired, my recommendation is let’s get it next week. But storing rotten produce there – that wasn’t our intention.”
Explained Kauffman, “Expenses were higher than the profit. It gets really, really simple.”
“Where was Lebanon? Why didn’t people want to come into the produce? The best way to keep produce fresh is to sell it quickly. I put my heart and soul and I try my darnedest, and I’m being blamed for a lot of things.”
Kauffman laughed when I inquired whether he had ever asked Tom to lower his rent. Kaufmann noted that he had that opportunity for a year and half.
“I don’t know what to say. I had good customers. I had good fellow vendors. I simply don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say. You cannot draw water out of an empty bucket. Demoralizing every way you look at. Demoralizing to stay in it and demoralizing to walk away.”
Joya says she doesn’t know whether he was making money, but he always seemed busy.
“Where was Lebanon? Why didn’t people want to come into the produce? The best way to keep produce fresh is to sell it quickly,” said Kauffman. “I put my heart and soul and I try my darndest, and I’m being blamed for a lot of things.”
Kaufmann’s will be replaced by produce stand Farm to Table, Table to Soul, with a grand opening next Thursday pending licenses and inspections.