The Rockaway Farmers Market suddenly closed its doors this past week after four and a half years in business on the corner of Beach 116th Street and Beach Channel Drive.
The news of the market’s closure first surfaced on the Friends of Rockaway Facebook group via Bill Gehlhaus, one of the group’s admins, with a photo of the property and a caption reading “Out of business.” Shortly after, Mallary Bennett, the owner of the Rockaway Farmers Market, confirmed the news to the community.
“We poured our hearts and souls into this place,” Bennett said. “The rent was astronomical and the cost of everything was impossibly high.”
The Rockaway Farmers Market first opened in January 2019, taking over a popular retail space that was home to a Sleepy’s mattress chain and a Blockbuster Video store before that.
Bennett, a Rockaway resident, opened the space with business partner Steve Deslandes, whom she first met in 2011 when the two were working in the community as a crossing guard and school bus driver, respectively. Prior to the Rockaway Farmers Market, the duo first went into business together with “Seth’s Transportation,” their bus company.
With the Rockaway Farmers Market, Bennett and Deslandes promised locals a year-round, affordable spot for fresh fruits and vegetables, a juice bar, deli sandwiches, handmade pasta and vegan options all under one roof.
After only a few months in business, the market quickly became a success, and Bennett and Deslandes opened a BBQ food truck right outside the market with Chef Reinhard Stih at the helm.
The quick success of the business prompted Bennett and Deslandes to purchase the nextdoor Belle Harbor Steakhouse shortly after in 2020 from then owner Jimmy Condolios. Rebranded as The Chef’s Table, the Rockaway Farmers Market provided the new fine-dining restaurant with fresh produce, allowing for a “farm-to-table” experience. In 2021, Bennett and Deslandes also opened up an Uncle Louie G’s Italian Ice store nearby.
In March 2023, The Chef’s Table suddenly closed, with Bennett citing trouble renewing the space’s lease but adding that the Rockaway Farmers Market would still remain open. Now five months later, it appears the market ultimately met a similar fate with Bennett claiming the landlord canceled their lease for the market space.
As of Aug. 4, the market remains in tact with a barricade in front of the main entrance and a “Marshal’s Legal Possession” notice on the door, reading “The Landlord has legal possession of these premises.”
In the days since the initial closing announcement, locals have expressed their sadness over the Rockaway Farmers Market with comments ranging from concerns about where else to go for fresh produce on the peninsula to ideas about what they would like to see open in the space, including a Trader Joe’s or a diner.
Bennett, however, teased on social media that the Rockaway Farmers Market’s sudden closure may not be the end for the business.
“We are working on something and will keep everyone posted,” Bennett said.