Ephrata Merchants Association replaced by The Ephrata Alliance

By on May 25, 2016
Typically held on the third Saturday of month at The Whistle Stop, The Ephrata Merchants Association’s Open-Air Farmers Market is on hiatus in 2016. Photo by Patrick Burns.

Typically held on the third Saturday of month at The Whistle Stop, The Ephrata Merchants Association’s Open-Air Farmers Market is on hiatus in 2016. Photo by Patrick Burns.

Monthly open-air market on hiatus in 2016. Many events will continue, run by new groups. By Patrick Burns

For the first time since 2013, the Ephrata Merchants Association’s Open-Air Farmers Market no longer buzzes on the third Saturday of the month at The Whistle Stop.

In fact, Ephrata Merchants Association — a collection of downtown shops established as “The Merchants” in 1953 as a way to market the downtown district to local shoppers — has evolved to meet the changing business landscape, said Rebecca Gallagher, owner of the Historic Smithton Inn bed and breakfast.

Gallagher, who noted the “Merchants” long-standing history in Ephrata, said “times have changed, the types of businesses operating downtown have changed, and the time has come for the Association to adapt as well.”

An executive committee was elected in February 2016 to get the group back on track with new incorporation and bylaws, Gallagher said.

What transpired is a new plan which includes a new name: The Ephrata Alliance. Gallagher, who is the Alliance co-president along with Sue Burkholder, co-president and owner of Salon Art-Tiff.

The Ephrata Alliance will also work closely with other local organizations including the Ephrata Area Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Ephrata Inc.(DEI), and the Ephrata Economic Development Corp.

“The Ephrata Alliance will be broader than downtown shop owners,” Burkholder noted. “The membership will include all types of businesses, civic organizations, municipal leaders and residents interested in enhancing our community for business owners, residents and visitors.”

Ephrata Borough Councilwoman Susan Rowe leads DEI, a group formed in 2004 and charged with attracting new businesses and bringing vigor to the downtown. It became an all-volunteer group in 2013 when it eliminated its only paid position.

Rowe said her organization will step up to help ensure downtown events remain on the schedule.

“DEI is one of three sponsors to step up, and we’re in the planning stages of taking on a larger role in downtown events,” Rowe said Tuesday.

Events that will continue under DEI are the Ephrata Craft Faire and the Holiday Tree Lighting. The Ephrata Alliance will continue to host the Ephrata Deck Crawl and the Jingle Bell Tour.

Other events still going on as scheduled are the Ephrata Brewfest June 25, 1 p.m. at Whistle Stop Plaza, and the 2016 Concerts By The Creek season, which begins with American Rogues on June 21.

Still, Gallagher said changes from the Merchants Association are an ongoing process, The Ephrata Alliance group is in the process of establishing a new website and logo to match this new identity.

“We had already begun discussions about updating our name from the Ephrata Merchants to something more representative of our current and prospective members,” Gallagher said. “The transformation became bigger when we realized that the incorporation framework and bylaws we were working from were actually no longer in place.”

“There are some big tasks ahead for the group,” Gallagher said. And as a result, many, but not all, of the events organized by the Merchants Association have been put on hold for 2016.

“As disappointing as it is, one event on hiatus is the monthly open air market,” she said.

Discussion of the market hiatus spread on the Ephrata Review’s Facebook page last week. The Ephrata market opened May 18, 2013, similar to a much older farmers’ market here which was shuttered more than 30 years ago.

“And here I’ve been patiently waiting, wondering when it was going to start,” Jen Davis wrote on Facebook. “That’s a shame.”

One person challenged the association while praising the market: “Typical of something nice in Ephrata. It doesn’t last; Merchants Association needs to do better job.”

That sentiment resonated with Madelyn’s Closet, owner Ricka Turner, who suggested the market be open every weekend. “Just what do the merchants do for the town? I sure would like to know, I and I have not seen or heard from them at all.”

Tim Allen, who was a committee member on the Ephrata Merchants Association and an advertising sales representative employed by the Ephrata Review, offered a more optimistic tone.

“All it takes is for a few somebodys who have the time, talent, and passion to say, ‘We will do it!’ and it could still happen,” Allen wrote.

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for the The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *