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Riverhead Farmers Market organizer Holly Browder and Riverhead BID president Ray Pickersgill. Credit: Vera Chinese, file)

VERA CHINESE PHOTO Riverhead Farmers Market organizer Holly Browder and Riverhead BID president discuss plans for the indoor Riverhead Farmers Market.

On Tuesday, 221 East Main St. in downtown Riverhead was just an empty space in need of a treatment from the Dyson vacuum parked in the middle of its floor.

But by Saturday, the building will become a bustling bazaar of vendors pedaling their locally-produced wares as the successful Riverhead Farmers Market moves inside once again for the colder months.

“This is the biggest thing to happen to Riverhead in years,” Ray Pickersgill, president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association which sponsors the market, said of the weekly event. “This has worked better than anything else we have tried.”

After renting out the space that once housed Swezey’s department store last winter — the market’s inaugural season — the BID is now leasing a nearby two-story, 20,000-square-foot space for $3,000 a month, a discounted rate, Mr. Pickersgill said. That figure does not include utilities. The new building, which still features landscape and dinosaur paintings from when it was the “Dinosaur Walk Museum,” an exhibit dedicated to the Jurassic-era creature, will house the market on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The farmers market might soon expand to run two days a week, Mr. Pickersgill said.

“It’s a bigger and better space,” said Riverhead Farmers Market organizer and poultry farmer Holly Browder. “It has heat and better bathrooms. This building is perfect. It was really tight last year.”

The market first opened to great acclaim on Feb. 1 in the nearby 8,000-square-front storefront. It moved to the riverfront in May, but vendors said attendance of both customers and other sellers started to wane by the end of the season.

Organizers are hoping to piggyback on the success of last year’s indoor market, as it is one of the few open regularly on the East End in the offseason. The Artisan Project vendor fair operates on Sound Avenue in Northville on Fridays and Saturdays and Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton hosts a monthly market.

New vendors will include Centerport-based Blind Bat Brewery, the Wainscott medicinal herb farm Bonac Farms and Northport-based pickle producer Backyard Brines, Ms. Browder said.

Vendors that participated in the indoor market, but not the summer market, that are slated to return include Pierpont Blossom Farm and Gula Gula Empanadas.

The market connects shoppers with local producers in the offseason and provides the vendors with an additional revenue stream during slower months, Ms. Browder said. It’s also an activity that brings throngs of people to downtown Riverhead all winter long.

“Its good for us to see each other every week and get out and socialize,” Ms. Browder said.

Many items available at the market are not seasonal such as products made with animal fibers, cheeses, baked goods, yogurt and mushrooms.

And, Ms. Browder noted, the hens at her farm Browder’s Birds lay eggs 365 days a year.

“Most people don’t realize that a lot of farming is year-round,” she said.

Mattituck’s Mar-Gene Farms, which joined the farmers market this summer, will be on hand with fresh, organic produce, including staples like cucumbers, beets and carrots, at least until January.

Gene Krupski of Mar-Gene Farms inside a high tunnel at the Mattituck farm. (Credit: Vera Chinese)
Gene Krupski of Mar-Gene Farms inside a high tunnel at the Mattituck farm. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Maryann Krupski, who along with her husband Gene owns Mar-Gene, said the couple recently installed a pair of hothouses on their property because the indoor farmers market made them realize there would be a demand for their crops well into the winter months. Inside the hothouses, also know as high tunnels, the temperature stays about 25 degrees above what it is outside. The hothouses can yield up to 25 pounds of each crop, like Swiss chard, per week, Mr. Krupski said.

“That’s what inspired us to put up the high tunnels this year,” Ms. Krupski said. “I’m hoping for repeat customers and I hope that my customers that visited me at other farmers markets will be there.”

Vendors pay a $450 to participate in the market for the season. Interested parties can contact Mr. Pickersgill at (631) 208-8155.

There is a waiting list, however.

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