Green Dragon celebrates milestone

By on June 28, 2017
The Green Dragon owners (left to right) Bill Rohrbach, Sandy Rohrbach, John Rohrbach, Sally Bushong and Rob Rohrbach.

Shown are the Green Dragon owners (left to right) Bill Rohrbach, Sandy Rohrbach, John Rohrbach, Sally Bushong and Rob Rohrbach.

It may have started out as a garage and a repair shop, but the Green Dragon has become one of the largest farmer’s markets on the East Coast. And that famous market is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year.

The market, which is now owned solely by the Rohrbach family, celebrated the official milestone on March 11.

“My father (Bill Rohrbach) bought the Green Dragon April 1, 1961,” said Rob Rohrbach. “He bought it with a partner, Larry Loose, who has since retired in January 2007.”

The market is now run by Rob, his brother, John, his sister, Sally Bushong, and their parents, Bill and Sandy.

Sally said it is an interesting story as to why her father purchased the market.

“His father (Carl) was president of the Ephrata Shoe Co. at the time,” she said. “So my dad had to make a decision whether to go into the shoe company business and follow in his father’s footsteps or take this risk on this little farmer’s market.”

And the future of American-made children’s shoes did not look very good back at the time, she said, adding that actually came to pass.

“So he (my grandfather) encouraged my father to take the risk and purchase the little farmer’s market,” Sally said, “and the rest is history. He sure did make the right choice.”

The Green Dragon was started on March 11, 1932 by Noah Burkholder. At that time, it got its humble beginnings as a garage and repair shop in what is now known as Building No. 3. From there, it became a restaurant, and then a tavern known as “Schreck’s.”

Rob said the tavern was during the time of Prohibition, which did not sit well with the local officials and they came in and “raided the place and shut it down.”

“I guess the locals kept it after that, without alcohol,” he said. “They got a DJ and had dances.”

That building still stands today and over the years more buildings were added.

“One and six are the largest buildings and seven is the newest, large building,” Rob said. It was rebuilt after a fire Sept. 9, 2014.”

Some other changes made over the years include the Farm Plaza, which the family added.

“The Farm Plaza is a flea market, Sally said. “You pull your vehicle in and sell from the back of your car.”

Another change occurred in the mid-80s and involved the barn that burned down in 2014.

“Back then, it was twice the size and was used as a cattle barn,” Rob said. “We tore about half of it down and made a little village.”

Rob said since the village was located near the water tower, it became known as Tower Village and consisted of little shops made of free-standing sheds.

“Today, we call it The Shops at Tower Village,” he said.

Sally said the Green Dragon’s two busiest shopping days are Good Friday and Black Friday.

“Our customer base is probably 50 percent local and 50 percent tourist,” she said, “and our Facebook page has 40,000 followers from all over the world.”

The Green Dragon has about 20 to 25 food venders, according to Sally and Rob, so there is always something interesting to eat.

They said their mostly frequently asked question is why they are only open on Fridays.

“The way we answer that is we wouldn’t have near the amount of vendors that we have on a Friday because they are at a market just about every other day of the week,” Rob said.

“And we never close except for when Christmas falls on a Friday. We are always open. It’s every Friday,” Sally said.

As for future expansion, no plans are in the works.

“We are pretty content right now to utilize what we have,” Rob said. “We toss around ideas for the back part of the property from time to time but nothing ever concrete.”

Although nothing is set in stone, the family said it does plan to do something to celebrate the market’s 85th anniversary as it enters the busy season.

“We just have not made any plans yet,” Rob said.

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