HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP — Mayor Bruce Hankins said Thursday he is getting “complaints” about the new Greater Bridgeton Amish Farm Market here.
People are grumbling, he said, about too few parking spaces and too few shopping carts because of too many customers.
“Those are complaints I can live with,” Hankins said.
For a few hours on Thursday, shoppers had to deal with even fewer parking spaces, as a portion of the market’s parking lot was roped off for the official opening ceremonies for the facility that actually opened June 21. There was a pig roast, horse and buggy rides, a ribbon cutting, the release of 20 doves and the obligatory — although few and brief — speeches.
But what officials and customers said Thursday is that what’s really important is that the market on Shiloh Pike, which is also Route 49, gives the rural, western half of Cumberland County something it needs: A shopping venue and an attraction that could hopefully spur shoppers to also visit nearby businesses.
“This place has become a destination,” Hankins said.
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, said the market blends well with the character of that part of the county, which has abundant farmlands.
“It’s a great fit,” he said.
Work on the $3.5 million, 25,000-square-foot facility in the township’s industrial park began about a year ago. Part of the financing comes from a $1.5 million loan backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The market’s 13 vendors sell baked goods, meats, fruits, vegetables, flowers, sheds, children’s playground equipment, pizza and seafood.
Customers said they are happy with the products sold at the market.
Sam and Helen Elwell, of Upper Deerfield Township, said they have already shopped there several times.
“We really like the meats and produce,” Helen Elwell said.
Sam Elwell said the prices are “competitive” with other markets.
Fairfield Township resident Patti Davis, carrying bags filled with pickles and macaroni salad, said one of the benefits of shopping at the market is running into friends.
“They come here just about every day,” Davis said.
Vendor Jonas King said customers and residents have made the Amish merchants feel at home.
“We feel very much a part of the community,” he said.
Market developer Scott Burnley has said that the facility would likely attract customers from western Cumberland County, as well as Salem and Gloucester counties and Delaware.
He also hopes that motorists who travel Route 49 to get to and from seashore resorts in Atlantic and Cape May counties will shop at the market.
The Greater Bridgeton Amish Farm Market is about 16 miles from Vineland’s Landis MarketPlace, which also has an Amish farm market.
Federal agricultural officials said when work on the facility here began they had no concerns about backing a project so close to the Amish market in Vineland. They said an information study of Amish markets in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland showed that none ever failed, despite their growing number.
And as for the lack of shopping carts, Burnley said Thursday’s he has taken care of that problem.
“We’ve ordered more,” he said.
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