By Paul Post
Tom Barody finally got the break he was hoping for after several years on the Glens Falls Farmer’s Market waiting list.
January 6 was his first day doing business at the organization’s winter market, held each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at Aviation Mall’s food court in Queensbury.
“There aren’t a lot of winter market options around here,” said Barody, of Blackberry Hill Farm in Thurman. “Spa City market is the only other one close enough for us, compared to five markets we do in summer. That’s a big cut in your pay. Our specialty is long-fermented breads. We use certified organic flour. It takes two days to make everything. We do a lot of breads and bagels. Pretzels and English muffins are also big sellers along with frozen vacuum-sealed, wood-fired pizza.”
Barody’s opening was made possible when another bread vendor left the market.
Blackberry Hill Farm is one of nearly three-dozen firms represented at the winter market, which is in its third year at the mall. Previously located at Sanford Street School in Glens Falls, it had to leave that venue during COVID and spent one winter at Cool Insuring Arena before moving to the mall.
“It’s awesome,” said Tom Wells, market president. “We love it because it’s such a customer-friendly place. The mall helps us out with advertising and maintenance, and we have enough room to expand here.”
Participating vendors are from Warren, Washington, Saratoga and Columbia counties.
The arrangement also pays dividends for the mall by generating traffic, especially during slow times right after the holidays. It’s no secret that shopping malls across the country have suffered in recent years as more and more people shop online instead of visiting retail stores.
So Aviation Mall Manager James Griffith welcomed the farmer’s market with open arms.
“Right from the get-go we saw an immediate increase in foot traffic,” he said. “It’s brought people to the mall who haven’t been here in a couple years and allows us to showcase the renovations we did back in 2016 and ‘17. The whole center was done over with new white tile. We added soft seating for people to sit down and relax and updated lighting to LED lights, so the mall is a lot brighter than it used to be.”
Long-time farmer’s market vendors Tom and Gretchen Morganstern own Adirondack Aromatherapy. They like the mall setting so much that they filled one of its vacant retail spaces last March, and still take part in the winter market.
“It certainly increases traffic on Saturday mornings,” Tom Morganstern said. “There are more people here than there normally would be. Even some of the mall tenants will open earlier when the market’s going on. It was very fun the first year because it had been years since they’d seen this many people in the food court.”
“It’s indoors, there’s lots of parking and it’s close to the Northway,” he said. “It’s definitely having an impact.”
The location helps the farmer’s market attract some people who don’t visit its summer home, on South Street in downtown Glens Falls.
“It’s more centrally located along the Northway corridor, so they’re seeing different people,” Griffith said. “It gives them more exposure. The whole symbiotic approach is great. The more people come to the farmer’s market, the more people come to the mall, and it helps grow their summer market as well.”
Aviation Mall hosts the winter market from November through the end of April. “A lot of people going up the Northway to winter camps stop here to get whatever they need,” Wells said. “Almost every week we get lots of customers who didn’t know we were here. They come to the mall for Target, and say, ‘Oh! There’s a market. Let’s stop and see what it is’.”
Market patron Cheryl Wolfe, of Queensbury, said she likes the winter market’s convenient location.
“It’s nice and warm, too, especially on a day like today,” she said. “I like to shop local. I think it’s better for you to eat foods grown here. I definitely like the fresh lettuce.”
First opened in 1975, Aviation Mall is owned by Syracuse-based Pyramid Management Group, which owns 13 centers, 11 in upstate New York and two in Massachusetts. Its flagship property, Destiny USA in Syracuse, is the sixth largest shopping mall in the country. Its next three largest ones are Crossgates in Albany, Palisades Center in Nyack and Walden Galleria near Buffalo.
All four of these malls are ranked in the Top 25 for square footage out of more than 800 centers throughout the U.S.
Aviation Mall’s largest tenants are JC Penney, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Target and Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. However, the list includes a wide variety of firms from Regal Cinemas to Adirondack Axe Throwing and two new tenants, The Gym and Bash It! — where people can let out their frustrations by smashing things such as old electronic equipment.
A sign in the food court says a new taco eatery will open soon.
Griffith said plans are in the works for larger stores to join the mall this year. He declined comment on specifics until an official announcement is made.
Wells said the winter market’s move to Aviation Mall has benefited everyone involved.
“The biggest thing is how much of a need there is in this community for our market,” he said. “It’s not just a place to come and get your vegetables. It’s a place to sit and chat, enjoy a favorite vendor or catch up with what’s going on at the market. We all work for each other. We’re almost like a family. We do the best we can to take care of each other and help each other out.”