BARRINGTON – When Stoltzfus Pastries opened in the Windmill Farm and Craft Market’s inaugural year of 1987, there were 64 shops in two buildings and 25 outdoor vendors.
The Amish bakery that the Stoltzfus family of Romulus runs is now one of 175 businesses at the sprawling, 44-acre market atop a hill on Route 14A. The Windmill has been a seasonal Saturday phenomenon for more than three decades.
The market, one of the region’s premiere destinations for locals as well as tourists, will start its 35th season on Saturday. Hours are 8 am to 4:30 pm There are no parking or admission fees, and pets on a leash are welcome.
“The Stoltzfuses are one of (five or six) original vendors still here,” Operations Manager Steve Wilson said. “They are part of the small hometown feeling that we try to convey. Everyone is welcome here. ”
Each Saturday from the end of April until the end of November, thousands of shoppers descend from near and far – for foreign tourists, the market is a popular stop between New York City and Niagara Falls – to experience its ambiance.
Wilson said between 4,000 and 12,000 people can be found at the market on any given Saturday.
“One Saturday, one of our vendors counted license plates from 37 or 38 different states,” he said, noting it is a mecca for bus tours too.
Even from the beginning, the market was so popular that the second Saturday it was open, traffic was backed up five miles in each direction on Route 14A, according to the historic account on the Windmill’s website.
The Windmill vendors sell everything from fine crafts to craft beer, Amish and Mennonite baked goods, plants, fruits, vegetables, prepared food, wine, gift items, handmade soap, clothing and shoes, books, musical instruments, antiques and collectibles, toys, furniture, kitchen tools, garden decor, jewelry, and much more. Many of the vendors have online stores accessible through www.thewindmill.com.
This year, new vendors will offer Scottish shortbread, fresh and silk flower arrangements, children’s educational materials, cosmetics and donuts. Several existing businesses have changed hands; Wilson said the market is 100% full, and there is a waiting list for new vendors who want to set up there.
The market is also known for car shows, musical entertainment and special appearances and events. From 8 am to 12 noon on Saturday’s opening day, John Kucko, a longtime local television sportscaster who now has a huge following for his digital photography, will be at The Windmill. He will be selling postcards of photographs of sunflowers, with the proceeds benefiting Ukraine. He has raised around $ 55,000 so far.
On June 11, local authors have been invited to the market. The event is sponsored by Finger Lakes Authors Experience, or FLARE. There will be about 30 local authors there to do readings, signings, and other activities.
Books by the Lake, the market’s largest bookstore, is starting its 32nd year. In 2020, in the middle of the covid pandemic, the store doubled its size by knocking out a wall – then had its best year ever.
“There were other people who opened brand-new businesses here that year,” Wilson said. “My father once told me not to be afraid to get in at the bottom of a cycle. There’s only one way to go from there. ”
Wilson said because the Windmill is a farm market, it was able to stay open during all of the pandemic, except for a month. He said with everything closed up, the market became a bigger attraction than it already was simply because it was open. It was tough, but Wilson made sure the market met all of the health mandates so it was a safe place to visit.
And, in 2021, many of those new visitors made return trips, boosting the vendors’ bottom lines.
Loretta Maldonado owns The Primitive Garden Shed on the North Street of Shops, next to Books by the Lake, with her husband, Tony. The Avoca residents are starting their fourth year at the market, but the business they purchased had been there upwards of 25 years.
The Maldonados expanded their inventory after listening to what their customers wanted. They carry a wide variety of items for the lawn, garden and home, from practical to whimsical, according to Loretta. Small lawn and garden tools, gloves, hooks, hammocks / hammock chairs and stands, pie irons and camping supplies, decor, rainchains, planters, plant accessories weathervanes, solar landscape timbers, and treefaces are part of their inventory.
“I’ve been here a relatively short amount of time, in comparison to my vending neighbors Books by the Lake, which is a staple, and Countryside Woodworking with 14 years here, but I’ve seen consistent growth,” she said. “We have a board and management that strive to keep our market current and relevant. Customer traffic has definitely increased. ”
Ion Zimmerman of Penn Yan, a member of the board of directors that runs the market, which operates as a cooperative, owns Countryside Woodworking.
“My family and I have been vendors here for years. My wife sells produce and I make furniture, ”Zimmerman said. “The Windmill is a great market and we are happy to be part of it. It has sustained us as a family, which is no surprise because it has a family atmosphere. The vendors are friendly. We try to make it a fun experience for all of our visitors. ”
Bev Korda is vice president of the board. She lives in Hammondsport and owns Just Sneakers and More. This is her 25th season; her store features high-quality footwear and is a Life is Good outlet. She and her late husband, Charlie, started it as part of a retirement plan, but it has turned into one the market’s major retail establishments. It has undergone two expansions.
“I’m taken aback by the 10, 15, even 30 years of dedication by so many of the vendors,” Wilson said. “Recently, one of our newest vendors told me, ‘I love this place; they’ll carry me out before I leave. ‘ ”
There are new shoppers every week, but some customers frequent the market regularly – with the same longevity as some of the vendors, he noted.
There have been some physical changes to the market for 2022. The open-air pole barn on the South Street of Shops is now enclosed and the cement floor instead of gravel. It will make vending and shopping a more comfortable experience there, Wilson said.
“If the past is any barometer for the future, the Windmill Farm and Craft Market will undoubtedly be here for another 35 years,” Wilson said. “It’s just that unique a place and our customers and our vendors love being here.”
“I most like the positive atmosphere,” Maldonado said. “The market customers, as well as the other vendors and the Windmill staff are friendly and supportive.”