Cinemas take on Farmer’s Market

Organizers shoot for Aug. 22 grand opening in theater parking lot

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Cinemas take on Farmer’s Market</p><p>The farmer’s market could return to the Indian Wells Valley as early as Saturday, Aug. 22, if the Ridgecrest Cinemas team can continue to recruit new vendors.

On Aug. 2, Ridgecrest Farmer’s Market owners Michael and Tonya Schroeder posted on their Facebook page the key points that lead to their decision to cease operations. Hundreds expressed their dismay at losing the unique offering, which has drawn a significant following in the valley.

“We were devastated when we heard they were closing,” said Kelly Walden, general manager of Ridgecrest Cinemas. “I know it’s an important source of income for the vendors, but I think it’s also been a really valuable addition to our community.

“But after a minute of feeling really sad about the loss, I realized — why don’t we try and revive it?”

The earthquake- and COVID-related woes on our local movie theater have been well documented. Walden and her team have pivoted as much as possible to adapt their practices to meet state guidelines, but the only steady form of revenue — despite ongoing expenses — has been its curbside popcorn and refreshment sales on weekends.

“I think this is one of the strengths that our team can offer the Farmer’s Market. We have experienced so many hardships throughout the last year or so, I feel that we are equipped and ready to take on this new challenge,” said Walden.

She began contacting the county offices to determine the requirements for permitting and insurance. “Fortunately we have good working relationships already with most of those contacts, so we were able to move fairly quickly.”

The theater property includes an enclosed, paved, seldom-used lot on the south side of the building. “That will offer our vendors and shoppers some protection from the wind and the elements,” said Walden.

She noted that the cinema venue can also offer restrooms and other logistical support.

"We have experienced so many hardships throughout the last year or so, I feel that we are equipped and ready to take on this new challenge,” said Walden.

She began contacting the county offices to determine the requirements for permitting and insurance. “Fortunately we have good working relationships already with most of those contacts, so we were able to move fairly quickly.”

The theater property includes an enclosed, paved, seldom-used lot on the south side of the building. “That will offer our vendors and shoppers some protection from the wind and the elements,” said Walden.

She noted that the cinema venue can also offer restrooms and other logistical support.

“We have already been in touch with many of the vendors from the former market, and they are all very excited to return to their customers. We are still trying to get a hold of some of the produce vendors, but it’s possible that we could be up and running as early as next weekend.”

Walden took over management of Ridgecrest Cinema in 2018. “I know I have said this many times, but an important part of our business model was to identify the kinds of entertainment and experiences that our community is missing, and do our best to fill in those voids.

“I think, in many ways, this is an extension of that. We have a big property that can’t be used for its intended purpose at the moment, our vendors don’t have a dedicate space to sell their goods, and our community already misses our farmer’s market. I think this is a win in so many ways.”

As of press time, the Aug. 22 market was scheduled to be held from 8 a.m. to noon. Vendors from the region have tentatively committed to bringing produce, baked goods, meat, unique gifts and more.

For more information, or to request a vendor spot at the market, e-mail ridgecrestcinemas@gmail.com or visit RCCFarmer’sMarket on Facebook.

Pictured: Kelly Walden has set aside the parking lot on the south side of the Ridgecrest Cinema property to house the new RCC Farmer’s Market, tentatively scheduled to be held Saturday mornings starting Aug. 22. - Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-08-14