Will downtown San Jose farmers’ market move grow business?

South First Street in downtown San Jose was jumping Wednesday afternoon. There was a jazz band playing, and people filled up bags with fresh berries, carrots and other produce. Vendors chatted up customers as they sold honey, hummus, eggs and more.

It was such a festive atmosphere at the opening day of the Downtown San Jose Farmers’ Market that you could be forgiven for not realizing it was all a big gamble. For the first time in more than two decades, the four-hour market moved from its traditional spot on a Friday around the lunch hour to Wednesday to a 3 pm start.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – May 04: Gary Mawla of San Jose reacts as he receives a basket containing fruits, vegetables and flowers after correctly answering a trivia question at Downtown San Jose Farmers’ Market on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in San Jose, Calif. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

“We’re trying something new, trying to take risks,” said Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association. Last year, the farmers market moved from San Pedro Square to the arty SoFA District, in part to make room for restaurants to use the outdoor space for al fresco dining on San Pedro Street. This year’s changes reflect some of the new realities as downtown continues its emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic.

San Jose is dead last in terms of cities bringing workers back to the office, Knies said, meaning there are fewer people strolling around on their lunch breaks. So a late afternoon market makes sense to catch San Jose State students finishing classes for the day, residents coming home from work and work-at-home types out for happy hour.

Moving to Wednesday means fewer conflicts with other downtown events that are starting to pick up downtown, too. The Urban Vibrancy Institute has its “Every Thursday” events with bands playing at various downtown venues, and this week sees the return of the monthly South First Fridays art walk.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - May 04: Sakura Soup Company's owner Tomo Kusaka talks with a customer at Downtown San Jose Farmers' Market on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in San Jose, Calif.  He sells various ramen ingredients including concentrated soup bases and toppings.  (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – May 04: Sakura Soup Company’s owner Tomo Kusaka talks with a customer at Downtown San Jose Farmers’ Market on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in San Jose, Calif. He sells various ramen ingredients including concentrated soup bases and toppings. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

For Hway-ling Hsu, owner of Sweetdragon Baking Company, the change of days and times wasn’t hurting sales of her popular sweet and savory pies at the farmers market. “It’s been busy,” she said. “At 10 or 11 in the morning it could be very slow, but it makes more sense for this setting being later.”

The Downtown San Jose Farmers’ Market runs every Wednesday from 3 to 7 pm through Nov. 16 on South First Street between San Carlos and San Salvador streets.

GEN. MATTIS DELIVERS FOR SCOUTS: You wouldn’t usually think of Gen. Jim Mattis, the former US Secretary of Defense, to be a guy you’d bring off the bench. But he did a great job Thursday morning in relief of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a Boy Scouts of America event in Santa Clara.

Rice had to bow out earlier this week from making the keynote at the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council’s annual Community Leadership Breakfast fundraiser. But Mattis easily captivated the crowd of more than 500 people at the Santa Clara Marriott in a conversation with entrepreneur and futurist Kevin Surace. Mattis got on the crowd’s good side early, praising the remarks of Ricky Lin, a Scout from Fremont whose Eagle Scout project involved creating a social event for special needs individuals.

“We all need a morning like this when we can get together and listen to people like Ricky,” he said.

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