Story and photos by Christopher Yee
Anyone who has passed by the corner of Glendale Boulevard and Larga Avenue in Atwater Village in recent months has been hit up for money. Not by panhandlers but by a neighborhood entrepreneur working to open a market in the corner storefront, where large banner hanging above the entrance and in the windows read : “Looking for an investment? Bet the farm.” Piper Goldstein, former chef and urban farmer at her residence in Atwater Village, is making no secret of her need for financial help to open Atwater Village Farm, a market that will serve the neighborhood’s needs for general groceries and organic produce.
Goldstein’s plan is to make arrangements with growers to buy their unsold produce at farmer’s markets. She said she got the idea after seeing large amounts of produce go unsold while she was doing a farm apprenticeship in Paso Robles, California.
Not only is Goldstein seeking investors, she’s asking for donations from anyone sympathetic to her cause through a website called Kickstarter, which allows people to help legitimate business startups get off the ground in return for various incentives set by the startup. She has also been nominated for Intuit’s “Love a Local Business” contest, in which people vote online for a business to win a $50,000 hiring grant. AWF is ranked ninth nationally and first regionally.
“I didn’t set out to go public with my search for funding,” Goldstein said. “That’s kind of just how it worked out.”
Goldstein is being very public about reaching out to the community for help with funding primarily because residents they had begun reaching out to her about how much they wanted the market in the neighborhood after seeing her tend her vegetables in her front yard:
“For the last two years, the community has been telling me that they needed a grocery store. They were telling me that they wanted a market similar to a farmer’s market open more than one day a week, something within walking distance. The Kickstarter gave me a way to network with locals and people from around the country who would like to see this place become a reality,” said Goldstein.
The money that Goldstein hopes to raise on Kickstarter would go towards paying the rent, paying her employees–she has three full-time employees who are not being paid–and other costs related to opening the market. While Donors have so far pledged $12,647. so far, If she does not reach her goal of $20,000 by July 15, the project will not be funded and none of the donors will be charged.
“If I don’t reach the goal, we’ll just keep having bake sales until we make it. At this point, it’s more about thinking outside the box. The banks are ready to give me loans. I just need a substantial amount of money down,” said Goldstein. She plans to open in some capacity within 60 to 75 days after some paperwork clears, but a grand opening will have to wait until she receives the necessary funding.
While Goldstein does want to make some money from her business venture, her main focus is giving back to Atwater Village.
“A little while ago, a commenter on Kickstarter called me a capitalist, saying they support the Atwater Village Farmer’s Market and that I’m trying to steal business from those farmers,” Goldstein said. “It got me a little upset because I’m not in this to make huge bucks. I want the farmers and the community to prosper from my market.”
Goldstein and her associates will hold a bake sale and open house on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the market space at 3224 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, 90039.
Christopher Yee, a product of Monterey Park, has been a journalist for about a year and got started reporting on the Eastside while working for the East Los Angeles College Campus News.