The idea came to her as she was pedaling on the Kent Street bike lane in Williamsburg. A man was riding his bicycle, but attached to the back was a trailer. The rider was pulling a tent, a table, a cooler and other supplies that could be easily used to set up a booth at a farmer’s market.
And that’s when Samantha Safer, Valley Shepherd Creamery’s New York City operations manager, decided that she could do the same thing for her cheese shop on Seventh Avenue and ditch the expensive van they used to tug cheese to the Sunday farmer’s markets in Park Slope and Windsor Terrace.
“I saw a guy hauling essentially the same supplies we would be bringing to the farmer’s markets and I said, ‘We could do that,’” Safer said last week while in the shop between Third and Fourth streets in Park Slope. “I went back to the store, did some research, ordered two bike trailers and assembled them. They hold everything we need and can pull 150 pounds each.”
Now, with two markets successfully set up, run and broken down without a big clunky van under her belt, Safer believes the transition to the bike trailers as their means of transportation is the only way to go for local businesses looking to cut down on costs.
“Every vendor at the market dealing with a truck looked at our bike trailer and said, ‘Holy Mackerel, that’s a great idea!’” Safer explained.
Valley Shepard cheese shop is . Owner Eran Wajswol and his wife run their creamery out of Long Valley, New Jersey with 600 sheep, 100 goats and 50 cows. The couple controls every aspect of production, from the grasses being fed to livestock to aging proprietary blends in their very own cave.
The farm delivers fresh cheese every Friday and that cheese goes to their shop and then some of it goes to the on Fifth Avenue and Fourth Street, as well as the new on 11th Avenue between Sherman and Windsor Place, both on Sundays.
“The bike trailer is helping us cut back on costs and has stopped us from worrying about our van, finding parking, paying tickets and it saves us a tremendous amount of time,” Safer said while in the store last week, explaining that the cheese mongers who pull the trailers have no problem lugging the tent, table and coolers full of fresh cheese, yogurt and buttermilk. “It makes vending at the markets so much easier for us."
Safer said that within the first month of having the trailers they will pay for themselves: Ditching the van cut car insurance and staffing two drivers (in addition to the two vendors) who drop off and pick up the vendors and supplies before and after the market. Her calculations did not include parking tickets and the time it takes to find a legitimate parking spot.
“It’s simply making us more efficient. We get to the market and set up faster and it’s much more organized,” she said, explaining that instead of four people in a van with two sets of supplies for two markets, she has streamlined the weekend business to two trailers and only two vendors who do everything without any issues. “The van was a lot of unnecessary costs and the bike trailers are better for the neighborhood — it’s one less vehicle going all over the place.”
The New Jersey farm supplies 24 farmer’s markets throughout Jersey, Manhattan and Brooklyn. They only run two markets out of the shop on Seventh Avenue, but the ease with which the trailers have run the last two weekends makes Safer feel good about her idea.
“Markets are really tiring — the heat, the stress and the potential to run out of cheese. But, with the trailer, if we run out our vendors are not stranded without a van and it’s just a short ride to our store.”
Ditching the van not only saves money, but also makes the vendors more reliable. Safer said that the van not only got so “obnoxious” but it also got problematic. If something happens to the van, gets stolen or more likely just breaks down, the vendor is stuck without a way to get to the market.
“If you don’t see a vendor at the market one weekend, it’s probably because of vehicle trouble,” Safer said, explaining that they were relying on the van since they first opened in Oct. 2011 and now she feels more free without the worry of a car.
Being a farm-owned-and-operated business, Safer explained, their business has a lot of overhead with the land, animals, production and then transporting the goods to the city. Since they control every aspect of their business, cutting costs and making things easier for everyone just made sense to Safer.
“This is something every vendor can do,” Safer said, explaining that they only bring about 35 pounds of cheese to each market. “It’s totally doable and it all fits in the trailer, I just hope the next few Sundays are not too hot.”