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Sun, April 18

Alternatives in a time of need: Farmers market opens in Williams

Greg Cole displays produce on sale at the new South Rim’s farmers market April 9. The market is open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. (Loretta McKenny/WGCN)

Greg Cole displays produce on sale at the new South Rim’s farmers market April 9. The market is open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. (Loretta McKenny/WGCN)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — While farmers markets are popular within most communities during normal times, the option of fresh produce and other goods may be even more appealing to community members now that the state has implemented social distancing and other guidelines.

Last week, South Rims Beer and Wine Restaurant on Route 66 decided to host a farmers market at their restaurant.

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South Rims has a variety of vegetables for sale at its Farmers Market. (Loretta McKenney/WGCN)

“We were thinking, ‘how could we provide something to the city and (also) have more money coming into our business?’” said South Rims owner Greg Cole.

Cole said the idea came from a marketing friend who told him about other businesses in Phoenix and across the country that have opened their businesses to providing alternative options.

On April 7, Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order allowing Arizona restaurants to repackage and sell grocery items they have on hand, including items not normally packaged and labeled for resale.

“Even with dine-in and carry-out options still available to patrons, many Arizona restaurants are struggling due to COVID-19,” Ducey said. “(This) Executive Order provides flexibility for restaurant owners to safely sell prepared and bulk foods or supplies they have on hand and can’t use right now. We are proud to support Arizona restaurants with this reform.”

Restaurants currently licensed or permitted to serve prepared food may sell grocery items including, but not limited to, paper goods, cleaning

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South Rims has a variety of vegetables for sale at its Farmers Market. (Loretta McKenney/WGCN)

supplies, prepared food in bulk, meat and vegetables whether or not those items are normally packaged for resale or are raw provided that certain provisions are followed. This order does not permit a restaurant that does not hold a current license from the Arizona Department of Liquor Licensing and Control to sell alcoholic beverages.

“We have an opportunity where we can do that here,” he said.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Cole said business was great.

“The year was starting off really well. Sales were great, customers were really happy about the restaurant. We were excited for a new year and to be prosperous with everything we were doing,” he said.

In March things got a little tougher.

“March started out really good for us, we were excited for the new season and then all of a sudden COVID-19 hit and we had to let go of all our employees, 19 of them,” he said. “There were no funds to pay out payroll.”

A week later Cole heard about the federal stimulus package that could provide relief for small businesses. But even then he is still uncertain when that relief will arrive.

“We’re still waiting on that fund to come in. It’s just not here yet,” he said. “We understand it’s busy and it’s backed up, so we’re just waiting on that.”

When it does come in Cole said it will help.

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Greg Cole displays some of the vegetables for sale at South Rims' Farmers Market. (Loretta McKenney/WGCN)

“It will provide some relief, but paychecks are still due — we need to pay them out still,” he said. “We went from a $1,500 day to a $200 day average now. We’re just doing one day at a time.”

South Rims has remained open for pick-up and delivery, which they are still offering from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily.

The farmers market will be open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Cole said those interested in being a part of the market or selling local produce can contact him for further information. For now, much of the product he offers is through corporations like Shamrock and Cisco.

“We’re not completely local yet and we probably never will be but we’ll get as much local in here as we can,” he said.

The market currently sells a variety of vegetables and fruit along with dry good items like rice and pasta. They also sell some meat products and farm fresh eggs along with toilet paper and paper towels.

“For every $25 you spend you get a free roll of toilet paper,” he laughed. “It’s like gold right now with everybody — we’re giving it out as we can.”

Cole said they are starting to make a profit.

“It’s brought in a little extra cash and it brings in awareness of who we are to people,” he said. “We’re considering even doing this after COVID-19, during the weekends.”

South Rims Beer and Wine Garden is located at 514 E. Route 66 in Williams. More information or to place a take-out order is available at (928) 635-5902 or www.southrims.com.

Those wishing to contribute to the market with local products can contact Cole at (928) 864-6569 or dbsteakhouseaz@gmail.com.

Visit www.williamsnews.com for a complete list of restaurants currently open offering delivery or take-out.

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