Students are greeted by the familiar sights, sounds and smells of the Well Canes Market every Wednesday.
The vibrant colors of locally grown produce, the smells of freshly baked goods and exotic spices, and the sounds of kettle corn popping draw countless students into vendor stalls as they walk past the Green.
In its second season, the market has grown because of student demand, but local businesses are a crucial ingredient to its success. Many vendors have returned for the 2013-2014 season, because for them, it has proven profitable.
Lamoy’s Living Foods is a stand that sells all-vegan-living salads and dishes like curry cashews that are inspired by owner Lamoy Andressohn, who grew up in the Caribbean. The stand has no home location but sells at local farmers markets, including the Well Canes Market.
Andressohn and her daughter, Stephanie, like the UM market better than others because of how fast they are able to sell out.
“This actually is the best because it’s a shorter market,” Stephanie said. “It’s from about 11 to 2 or 3, and we sell out in that period of time. We have other markets that are all day and we might not sell out, so this is one of the most profitable. Per hour, it’s the best.”
For other vendors, such as La Provence, an artisanal French bakery with several locations throughout Miami, this market represents “a very small portion” of profits, according to employee Martin Bates.
“It’s a good market,” Bates said. “Above average, but not the best, just in volume.”
While the majority of the vendors also sell at local farmers markets, such as those in Pinecrest and Coconut Grove, the UM market represents a different demographic, and it’s one that works for many vendors.
“We came last year to try it out for one day, and we did so well, we were like ‘we have to come back,’” Stephanie Andressohn said.
The majority of college students are mainly looking for grab-and-go items, according to Laura Sutton of Coconut Grove Farms, a stand selling locally grown, organic tropical fruits and vegetables.
Compared to other markets where people buy produce for their families for the week, students typically buy one fruit to eat. Sutton does not bring as much produce to UM because she sells less than at other locations.
“We definitely don’t sell as much per hour as we do, only because I don’t have as big of a spread,” Sutton said. “These customers here are only exposed to a certain amount, a smaller amount of produce.”
Instead, Sutton has adapted to bringing fruits students can easily identify and eat, such as apples and dragon fruit, which have become familiar to her customers. Sutton also sometimes bakes pies, sells smoothies, makes spreads like baba ghanoush and dehydrates fruits to sell them in small bags.
Most vendors sell snacks and drinks that busy college students can buy and enjoy on their way to class. There are a few stands that sell other products, like Pixie Dust Naturals, which sells soaps, lotions and candles.
Ana Milanes, a Pixie Dust employee, said it’s difficult to sell other items to students.
“It’s so much harder because people go and they get hungry and they’re going to buy food,” Milanes said.
In order to participate, the vendors must contact the marketing manager, who then interviews them and decides whether to give them a spot in the market. Vendors also need a tax license, a business license and a Florida Department of Agriculture license to sell food.
Chantal Chiforean, owner of Bubbly Boba, a stand that sells boba tea, says the majority of her profits come from UM because college students are the company’s primary demographic.
Chiforean has found the market successful every week. One week, she even sold out early, despite bringing more supplies than the previous week.
But, for students, the biggest concern is pricing. Some feel that the products at the Well Canes market are too expensive. However, because of local products and natural ingredients, many feel the price is worth it.
“Definitely, I think [they are] a bit higher in price, but considering the quality of the food, I think it’s reasonable,” freshman Wen-zhi Chiao said.
Freshman Danni Dikes is a regular at Peruvian Ceviche, where she always buys the $4, freshly made passion fruit juice.
“Being a freshman and not having a lot of money, I think this price is pretty good,” she said. “Since I got this one drink, I’m obsessed with it.”
The market marks a growing trend of purchasing fresh foods from local businesses. Sutton hopes that students continue to support the vendors and come back for more produce rather than buying out-of-season products from grocery stores.
“I would love to see them wanting to incorporate much more fruits and vegetables into their diets and wanting to come back to us every week and wanting larger amounts,” she said. “… that really helps small mom and pop shops like ours to be able to afford to keep this business going and make it profitable.”