A hub of community in North Asheville, the Merrimon Avenue Tailgate Market recently lost its home of 19 years -- the Grace Plaza parking lot.
In all those years, the tailgate market has operated without a single negative incident, says market manager Ed Grushinski. But last year, Ingles Markets Inc. bought Grace Plaza.
Grushinski says he received a letter last week from Ingles informing him the Plaza parking lot would no longer be available to the tailgaters because of corporate liability concerns. Grushinski offered to buy liability insurance if it would help the market continue at the current location, but he says Ingles Vice President Gordon Myers rejected that solution.
Myers also refused comment when asked to explain the difference between the tailgate market and other third-party events allowed in Ingles' parking lots, such as the Feed-Seed Supply Garden Center tent sales. Ingles President Vaughn Fisher did not respond to requests for comment.
Comparing the little open-air market to Ingles' net income of $4 million, Grushinski can't believe Ingles could be afraid of what little competition the tailgaters may pose at the Grace location, which is within site of an Ingles store. "It's more of a Saturday morning community gathering," Grushinski said. "We're more interested in providing a community service than conducting business."
Tailgate market vendor Vanessa Campbell adds that friends and customers "are really the same because it's such a great market."
"[Ingles is] supposed to be community minded and community spirited, and that's what we're all about," Grushinski said. "To stifle something like this is just terrible."
The tailgate market is comprised of 35 regular vendors who pay dues to promote this seasonal, weekly gathering of WNC farmers, crafters, and community members, said Grushinski.
"Everything there must be produced locally or made locally by the vendors; there's no secondary selling," he said. "I think that's one of the things that's unique about the market," he added.
Grushinski estimates that 200 people visit the market weekly when it's open during the growing season. More than 700 people have signed up for notification of tailgate special events and operation dates.
Campbell is encouraging the public to ask Ingles to reconsider by writing to: Ingles Markets Inc., Personal mail for Robert Ingle, P.O. Box 6676, Asheville, NC 28816.