Nothing would stop Charbel Harb from launching his farmers and art market in Shenandoah. Not even the coronavirus.
The 2.7-acre Market at the Oasis was set for a March 7 launch. It would be timed perfectly for the start of Baton Rouge’s mild spring weather. What Harb didn’t expect was that the market’s first month would also fall in the midst of a global pandemic.
Opening day—which was still prior to the announcement of Louisiana’s first case of COVID-19—drew about 1,200 patrons. Harb says the event, staged in his former garden store and plant nursery Harb’s Oasis, was so packed it reminded him of a department store during the busy shopping season.
By the next weekend, though, Gov. John Bel Edwards was gearing up to announce the March 16 stay-at-home order, and attendance numbers dropped to 200.
On left: Ralph Cryer of Cryer’s Family Produce at The Market at the Oasis
On right: There are also a number of plant sellers at The Market at the Oasis.
But Harb saw a need for the market to stay open in a modified form, with limited vendors selling only perishable food and plants. The market carried on with increased safety measures, including drive-thru access as well as a walk-up format with taped lines reminding customers and vendors about social distancing.
Before the Coursey Boulevard market opened, nearby residents would have to travel to downtown or Mid City for their market needs. Harb hoped to provide those in southeast Baton Rouge and neighboring Prairieville and Denham Springs with easier access to fresh produce and maker goods—as well as provide vendors a place to showcase their products.
“All of these young entrepreneurs, each one has an idea,” Harb says. “They all needed venues; they all needed exposure.”
He’s referring to the market’s farmers, but also to the eager entrepreneurs who will sell soap, jewelry, toys and other goods when the market returns to its full format. With 180 regular vendors, he says each has already grown its client pool.
After Harb’s Oasis permanently closed this past winter, Harb began transforming it into this new market. He remodeled the old building into different sections, marking rooms and vendor spaces off using blue tape.
“What makes this [market] unique is there’s vendors inside, as well as vendors outside,” he says.
The market is also in the process of creating a community garden, with plans to donate some of its produce to charity.
Even though the market got off to a tough start, Harb is grateful it was able to serve the community and says he is optimistic about its future.
“One day,” he says, “I would really like to see this becoming the community market, where 15 to 20 vendors would end up owning the whole property.” Find The Market at The Oasis on Facebook
Red Stick Farmers Market: Pick up farm-fresh produce for all those at-home cooking experiments at this locally sourced, year-round market. Patrons can enjoy products from more than 50 farmers selling produce, meats, breads, pastries, plants and dairy products. Watch for the Baton Rouge Arts Market, which pops up here on the first Saturday of every month. Thursdays, 8 a.m.-noon, at 6400 Perkins Road; Saturdays, 8 a.m.-noon, at Fifth and Main streets
Scotland Saturdays: Every month, artisans, makers and businesses come together in north Baton Rouge to show off their locally produced goods. Last Saturday of each month at 8418 Scotland Ave.
Culture Makers Market: This outdoor market puts a spotlight on diversity, celebrating people of color’s food, drinks and music. The last Sunday of every month, 4-8 p.m., at 450 Oklahoma St.
Baton Rouge Arts Market at Arc Baton Rouge: This music- and food-filled market helps local artists sell their artwork directly to the public. Every third Saturday most months, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at 12616 Jefferson Highway
Mid City Makers Market: Head over to the heart of Mid City for some laid-back shopping with some hip local makers. One evening per month at 541 S. Eugene St.
Editor’s note: As of press time, the reopening dates for most of the above markets had not yet been announced. The Red Stick Farmers Market remained open throughout the coronavirus outbreak but with a modified drive-thru format. Follow the markets on social media for the most up-to-date information.
This article was originally published in the May 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.