The Beaver County-based ice cream chain has signed development agreements for seven new markets in the West and Southwest.
Market Square's lunch-hour regulars were joined by thousands of additional people making friendly conversation and exchanging money for produce as the Market Square Farmers Market reopened for another season.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on a seemingly scripted sunny day, 22 vendors -- twice as many as last year -- sold food and agricultural products ranging from vegetarian dog treats to naturally dry-aged beef, from plants and flowers to Angora goat yarn.
The farmers market has been organized by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership for eight years and "provides an opportunity to showcase the vibrancy of the Downtown area," said spokeswoman Ida D'Errico, the president of Ida D'Errico Associates, who was busy talking to television reporters and camera people.
The market also provides economic opportunity for many small businesses. Laban Kurtz of Spring Harvest Farm in Cochranton, Crawford County, decided to apply for a spot this season. Mr. Kurtz had a busy but enjoyable day selling cucumbers, tomatoes and more from the farm's tent.
Morning Dew Orchards was another newbie at the market. Owner Doug Wolf had a jam-packed day and almost was sold out of apples by 1 p.m. Of course, he was giving away a lot of apples, too, urging passersby to "Try one!" and "Take one back to the office!"
Another new vendor is Sweet Patootie, which sells all-natural dog treats and organic catnip toys. Sweet Patootie has sold at several other farmers markets and decided to start going to Downtown's because it is "well-organized, has a lot of traffic, and is fast-moving -- which is good," said owner Mary Wagner. Her signature product is dehydrated sweet potatoes, and she also sells dehydrated carrots and bananas with coconut oil -- all for dogs.
While market-goers were interested in the new vendors, many looked forward to seeing veteran vendors, too.
At his Ridgeview Acres Farm spot, Bob Ambrose, known as "Bob the Flower Guy" at the market, was sold out by 1 p.m., to the disappointment of many, to start his sixth or seventh season at the market. One customer who was looking forward to his return was Yu-ling Chang, the vice president of marketing for the Pittsburgh Symphony, who bought her wedding flowers from him.
The farmers market will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays through Nov. 8. There's a free acoustic concert at noon. A complete list of vendors and weekly performers will be announced monthly and posted at http://www.DowntownPittsburgh.com and on the Market Square Blog at http://marketsquarepgh.blogspot.com.