Edward Tomblin couldn’t bear the thought of the Farmers Market on the day, earlier this month, when his streak ended.
“I didn’t go over there because I didn’t want to throw salt in my wounds,” he said.
Tomblin, who is a part-owner of the Main Street flower store Fleurs Du Jour, says for 24 years he never skipped a day at the Main Street Farmers Market.
“Rain, hail, lightening, we have never missed a day,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if New Year’s was on Saturday. We were still there on Sunday. There could be five vendors over there and you could always place your bet that Fleurs Du Jour was going to be there.”
On Jan. 1, a new state law (Assembly Bill 1871) went into effect, tightening many regulations on sellers at farmers markets certified by the state.
The law — which was sponsored by then-Assembly Member, now State Senator Roger Dickinson, who did not respond to requests for comment by press time — is intended to increase funding for farmers market enforcement and stop the sale of agriculture products that aren’t grown by the sellers.
For Tomblin, it meant the end of a 24-year run as a Main Street merchant at the market. He imports his flowers from all over the world. Tomblin feels that, for several reasons, Fleurs Du Jour should be exempt from the new law.
For one thing, he said, people aren’t eating his flowers — a distinction that makes him different from other agricultural vendors.
Additionally, the bill aims to increase transparency among market vendors — a goal that Tomblin understands. Vendors are now required to post signs that say “We Grow What We Sell” and submit proof that their product was grown locally.
“We’ve always been Main Street merchants selling flowers,” Tomblin said. “We’ve never been a grower. We’ve never pretended to be a grower. Transparency, for us, has never been an issue.”
Finally, some of his most popular products are not from Southern California.
“It’s things that you can’t grow here that people really want,” Tomblin said. “Lots of people came here from the East Coast or the Midwest and they grew up with lilacs and peonies and it makes them think of home. Well, we can’t grow those things here because we don’t have four seasons and you need a freeze for them to go dormant and then to come back.”
As a result of the ousting, Tomblin said that Fleurs Du Jour lost 90 percent of its Sunday business. Flowers, he said, are often impulse buys. The Main Street shop stays open on Sunday to service the hotels and regular customers but most of the sales were coming from passers-by.
Malin Svensson said she’s been coming by the Main Street Farmers Market for more than 15 years to pick out roses.
“I’m just devastated that it’s not there anymore,” she said. “It’s not the same. My Sundays are not the same, going there to the Farmers Market to do my little ritual there: picking up the flowers.”
Pam Cysner, of Santa Monica, doesn’t understand why Tomblin is getting pushed out given that there are clothing retailers at the market. She thinks florists should be categorized with clothes and jewelry, rather than with produce.
“A lot of people miss it,” she said. “The Farmers Market has been nice enough to tell people he’s not there and that his shop is open, but there’s a big gap right where his stall is. Nobody’s there.”
Tomblin is hoping to be granted an exception because he’s been there so long. He’s reached out to two City Council members (he couldn’t recall which ones), though it may be out of their hands given that it’s a state law.
Gary Gordon, the executive director of the Main Street Business Improvement Association, is going to bat for Fleurs Du Jour, trying to find someone who will grant an exception.
City Hall’s representatives of the Santa Monica Farmers Market did not respond to requests for comment by press time.