Under the canopy: Hilo Farmers Market reopens Hamakua side after improvements

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Sommai Tanimoto, left, and Elizabeth Ward talk about the produce at Ward's booth inside the Hilo Farmers Market Saturday.

  • Myhanh Nguyen, center, pays for fruit at the Hilo Farmers Market Saturday. (Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald)

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Sarah Avena, right, shows her collection of magnesium products to a customer at the Hilo Farmers Market Saturday.

The Hamakua side of the Hilo Farmers Market has reopened for vendors and customers after being closed for more than a year.

Construction to the market on the corner of Kamehameha Avenue and Mamo Street was completed at the end of April. Contractors paved over the gravel and built a permanent canopy over the fresh concrete to improve the space and make it more accessible.

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The opening of the covered market completed the first of four phases in the revitalization of the popular downtown market owned by Keith De La Cruz.

During a blessing ceremony on April 29, Mayor Mitch Roth congratulated De La Cruz and mentioned the next phases involved building more structures for the Keaukaha side of Mamo Street. According to a video of the ceremony on the market’s website, the next three phases are slated for completion by Christmas of this year.

While the Hamakua side of the market was under construction, vendors were moved across the street to the Keaukaha side.

Sita Davi owns From Hawaii with Love and sells Ayurveda spices, herbs, lotions and supplements during the Big Market Days on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Davi was excited to move back to the Hamakua side after feeling a bit squeezed between other vendors.

“I’m so glad to be back over here and on smooth concrete,” Davi said. “It is so open and clean, which is great because I was starting to feel claustrophobic on the other side.”

Former vendor Sommai Tanimoto, who now sells her produce through Elizabeth Ward with Waiholokui Garden, was pleased with the changes.

“The shade and the breeze are so much better for the plants and produce,” Tanimoto said. “The sun would beat down on them sometimes on the other side, so this is much nicer.”

Ward was also excited to move her setup back and return to some normalcy.

“I love that the space helps me see everyone so clearly,” Ward said. “The new mural makes it colorful and with everyone here it feels very positive.”

The Hilo Farmers Market has been operating since 1988, and De La Cruz hopes the improvements help the market continue to thrive well into the future.

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“I remember this particular lot was gravel with four vendors out in the hot sun or rain,” said De La Cruz during the blessing ceremony. “Now we have this beautiful roof to house, cover and provide shade for our vendors and customers. It has come a long way.”

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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