Pulse: Chatter: Turf Wars: Volatile Markets

A smackdown between Collingswood and Haddonfield has the produce — and charges of back-stabbing — flying.

Betsy Cook didn’t know a thing about it until she saw the ad in the local paper calling for volunteers. For a farmers’ market. In Haddonfield — less than two miles from the market she manages in Collingswood, the one where South Jerseyans have been packing their reusable shopping bags every Saturday morning for the past eight years.

“I was confused,” Cook says. Now where would residents elect to go for their beefsteaks, geraniums, gourmet dog biscuits and handmade ylang-ylang soap? Would they be loyal and continue to flock to her locale in the parking lot under the PATCO tracks in Collingswood? Or would they flee to the “new” market, in the parking lot above the PATCO station in Haddonfield?

Actually, they wouldn’t have to choose at all — at least, that’s what Haddonfield mayor Tish Colombi told Collings-wood borough administrator Bradford Stokes when she e-mailed him last fall with questions about starting a farmers’ market in her town. There was no need to worry about competing markets, she wrote; Haddonfield residents wanted their market on Sunday, not Saturday, the day Collingswood’s is open. So, being a good neighbor, Stokes sent Colombi all the info he had about how to run one.

Then, in May, he heard about the debut of the Haddonfield farmers’ market. In the afternoon. On Saturdays.

“I was disappointed,” says Collingswood mayor Jim Maley. But not as disappointed as he was two weeks later, when Haddonfield announced it was switching the market’s operating hours to mornings—the same time as the market in Collingswood. Not long after, Mayor Maley ran into Mayor Colombi at an event.

“He said, ‘I can’t believe you’re going to go head-to-head with us,’” Colombi remembers. “I said, ‘Oh, Jim. You support us, we support you.’”

Not exactly. “That’s how they are in Haddonfield,” grouses Collingswood market volunteer Robert Martin. “They’re all hoity-toity, then they stab you in the back.”

Susan Baltake, who does PR for the Haddonfield market, insists, “We never really thought about how it might hurt Collingswood. It would be an entirely different market.” (Collingswood, for instance, has folk music and a crepe vendor; Haddonfield has a violin trio and Belgian waffles. Soooo different.)

Baltake insists that more vendors and more customers mean more business for everyone. “A lot of people say that Collingswood stole the Arts and Crafts Fair from Haddonfield,” she sniffs. “I’ve never heard anyone in Haddonfield complain about that.”

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