Carrying reusable shopping bags soon to be filled with fresh fruits and veggies, the Napa Farmers Market faithful found their way to the market’s season opening on Tuesday morning.

For the first time in many years, shoppers weren’t headed downtown. Instead, they traveled to the east parking lot of the fast-developing South Napa Century Center, the new home of the outdoor bazaar.

“I love it,” said vendor Jessica Landry. “It’s bigger and it’s very visible,” especially for those driving over the Imola Avenue bridge. “It feels like a nice open space for us.”

The market’s previous location in an Oxbow District parking lot is no longer available now that the Culinary Institute of America plans to revitalize Copia. Today, the market’s new neighbors are the Century Napa Valley movie theaters, In-Shape health club and Hampton Inn & Suites.

“So far, it’s been a good turnout for the first day,” said new market vendor Dandy Noel, who sells home décor items made from wine bottles and staves. Noel said she’s considering opening a retail store in downtown Napa. She understands that most shoppers “are here for the produce,” but Noel said she wants to get a sense of the community and market customers.

Shopper Holly Plank said she was also happy with the new location.

“There’s plenty of parking,” and she’s seen several new vendors. “It’s nice and busy,” noted Plank. “It feels like a larger market because it’s more spread out.”

The market is more than just fresh fruits and vegetables. Vendors also sell jewelry, clothing, aprons, hats, baked goods and even vermicompost (worm compost) and worm tea. Nonprofits and other organizations like VOICES, Master Gardeners and Napa Valley CanDo also staff tables.

Serena Bandy of Napa might have had the most colorful transportation to the market. She rode her aqua- and pink-colored beach cruiser bike to scope out the scene.

“I love the farmers market because everything’s local and fresh, and I choose to support local businesses,” said Bandy. She works at In-Shape, which means it will be convenient to walk over and shop on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

“So far, so good,” said Sally Latimer of Monday Bakery, a new market vendor.

Latimer and her two business partners were busy dishing out baked goods like mini honey cheesecakes with a pistachio crust, peanut butter and jelly muffins and caramelized onion kale.

“We were kind of bombarded at the beginning. Everyone seems really excited to be here,” she said.

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The Napa Farmers Market runs from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays. In an earlier interview, market president David Layland noted those hours are before the big crowds start coming to the movie theaters.

On Tuesday, Layland said one of the biggest complaints he used to hear from shoppers about the Copia location was difficult parking. That’s not an issue at the Century Center, he said. “The parking is perfect.”

Customers can park in the main theater parking lot, next to the gym or hotel or even across the street in the theater overflow parking lot.

Tuesday’s are usually slower than the Saturday market, but on this Tuesday “we have a really good number of customers, which is great,” Layland said.

Vendors pay $30 per market for a 10-foot by 10-foot stall and can choose one or both days to participate. Some stall spaces remain available. Approximately 100 vendors are listed on the market website.

Layland noted that May is usually a slower time for markets because some vendors have yet to begin their harvests.

“I think this is lovely,” said shopper Patty Peterson. Peterson bought a box of goodies from Monday Bakery, which she stashed with some lettuce, chard and cabbage in a hamper. “You see unusual varieties, it’s fresher than any store and I’m supporting our growers and craft people.”

Karen Garcia said since it was opening day, “I didn’t want to miss it.” She’s “thrilled” the market has reopened. “I’d love to see it back downtown, but this is a great short-term location.”

Under a canopy, Noemi Ramos of J&J Ramos farms, located near Modesto, sorted cherries and tomatoes.

“Free samples,” Ramos called out.

She and her partners left the Central Valley around 3:30 a.m. to get to Napa on time, she said.

“It’s going well,” she said, as she picked off leaves and dropped cherries into green plastic bins.

“Come and try, guys,” she called out again. “We’ve got the best cherries in town.”

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.