Efforts to launch the South Pasadena Farmers’ Market began more than 20 years ago, said John Turk, an antiques-store owner and one of the market’s founders.
Merchants along the western end of Mission Street wanted to promote businesses in that historic former business center of the city, Turk said.
At the time, he said, some people thought of the area around Mission Street and Meridian Avenue as “the slums.” It was in the path of the proposed 710 freeway extension, he said.
The merchants petitioned the city to start a Farmers’ Market.
“The city and Mission West Association (MWA) provided match seed money to get the ball rolling,” said Turk. MWA was an organization of businesses founded in the 1980s.
Amedee O. “Dick” Richards, Jr. was one of the founders. Now deceased, he was a two-term Council member and former mayor. At the time, his wife Clara operated Family Fair on Mission Street, a store selling candy and collectibles. Today it is the site of Aro Latin restaurant.
Other merchants also helped start the market, according to Turk. Celeste Iliss, former owner of The Munch Company sandwich shop, was one. Greta Dunlap, who operated Garden Faire, a shop that sold decorative items for the garden, participated, he said. She also served as an early market manager. Bonnie Dunlap, her mother, and Frieda Khant were also among the founders. They operated an antiques store on Mission Street. Iris Intrigue Boutique owners Pat Mangione and Susan Howell participated, as well.
“The founders started with the help of Mission West,” said Turk. “The association eventually became the market’s sponsor until 2009.”
“We thought the Farmers’ Market would just add to the revitalization,” he added.
The Gold Line Station, which opened in 2003, and the adjacent Mission Meridian Village mixed-use housing development, added significantly to the vitality of the area.
What began as a few farmers along Meridian Avenue between Mission and El Centro Streets has expanded south, east and west so that today some 60 farmers and vendors occupy the Farmers’ Market each Thursday afternoon and evening. Many of the nearby restaurants and coffee shops — some new since the market began — are full. Dozens of families congregate in the grassy park. Customers wait in line to buy prepared foods and dine wherever they can find a seat or a patch of grass.