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Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove launches drive-through farmers market

The Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove is hosting a weekly drive-through farmers market in which shoppers remain in their vehicles. Organizer Jennifer Ross of HeartBeet Farms in Centereach said it was a way to help the community during the pandemic.  Credit: Newsday / Tom Ferrara

The Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove may be closed at the moment, but its southwest parking lot stirs to life on Thursdays with vendors selling microgreens, cookies, pizza kits, salsa, premade meals and other noshes during an entirely drive-through farmers market from 4 to 7 p.m.

The Smith Haven Mall Drive-Thru Pop-Up Farmers Market was organized by Jennifer Ross of HeartBeet Farms in Centereach, and for its initial run featured at least 16 vendors arranged in line. Shoppers drive along the row on a one-way route, ordering items along the way to be picked up and paid for at the end — and never leaving their cars. 

"When [drivers] arrive, they will get a flyer that highlights what's being sold," said Ross, who has helped organize other farmers markets and also ran a mobile farmstand truck. "They can think about what they want, and but also have an option to pre-purchase before they get to the tables." (The pre-purchase link is heartbeetfarms.com/farmers-market/.)

Among the vendors for the first market were Rustic Roots Organic Home Delivery, selling produce, fish, meat and eggs; Jericho Cider Mill; Nina's Fresh Batch of Northport, with cookies and granola; Sansone Market of Garden City Park, selling pizza kits; and vendors selling honey, hummus, coffee, pickles, tortilla chips, popcorn, potato chips, dog biscuits, soap and jam. HeartBeet Farms sells salsa, soup and margherita sauce.

One of the vendors is Jason Drachtman, who owns Jason's Foods of Hauppauge. Drachtman — who previously oversaw food service at Lufthansa German Airlines' East Meadow headquarters — selling gluten-free, premade entrees such as chicken francese with basmati rice ($10) and pan-seared salmon with quinoa and roasted Brussels sprouts ($12).

"For now, it's an interesting thing, but I think it might evolve into a different kind of market where people can walk through and stretch their legs," said Drachtman said of the drive-through format. "Hopefully, it can expand to other malls."

Ross said she was approached with the idea by Ann Schultz, the director of marketing and business development at Smith Haven Mall for the Simon Property Group. "Another Simon mall in Florida was doing a drive-through market, and Ann said, 'hey, Jen, do you think we can do this here?'"

Ross was aware of the issues afoot for other farmers markets this season — namely, how to safely maintain social distancing. (This year's Northport Farmers Market has been postponed for this reason). Ross said she reached out to potential vendors to see if they were interested in a drive-through market. "They really liked the concept," she said. "I thought, if the mall really wants to do this, let's look at the model differently. Everything is so expensive these days, so I wanted to keep the entry cost as low as possible."

Accordingly, the Smith Haven Mall farmers market costs vendors $50 for the month, and that fee will be donated to a rotating nonprofit, said Ross. May's beneficiary is Island Harvest Food Bank, and shoppers can also purchase and donate items to donate to the food bank via a buy-one, donate-one model.

The market takes place in the mall's southwest parking lot, on the Middle Country Rd. side. A map (shows a one-way system that begins at a mall entrance and hooks around Bahama Breeze.

The market will run through the fall, Ross said, but no firm end date has been established. The vendor roster will potentially shift each month, she added.

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