On South Colorado Boulevard, there is a vintage sign with a modern neon marquee below that denotes a historic shopping center, and also marks the spot where the University Hills Farmers Market takes place each summer.
Now in its fifth season, this treasured neighborhood market opens again on Saturday, May 14, from 9 am to 1 pm at University Hills Plaza (2500 South Colorado Boulevard). Launched in 2018 by Robin Singer-Starbuck, this outdoor market hosts around seventy vendors, from farm stands to baked goods to pet products, all made or sourced locally.
“I’ve built this market ground up, and it is such a deep joy to give back to a community I have loved my whole life,” says Singer-Starbuck, who grew up in south Denver. “It’s in close proximity to an awful lot of residential areas, it’s centrally located, there is a nice walk-through flow, and I spread the vendors out so you find a little bit of everything for everyone throughout.”
University Hills Plaza has a long history in Denver. It opened in 1955 and was one of the main shopping areas in the city. Like many other malls and larger retail areas, the space started going downhill over the last decade as tenants left and business moved online. But in 2018, Singer-Starbuck came in to manage the plaza, filling the empty spaces and revitalizing it. When she signed on, she did so with the idea of opening a seasonal farmers’ market in the parking lot.
Turns out, the city council had recently done a survey in the area on what people wanted to see in their neighborhood, and a farmers’ market was high on the list. So, Singer-Starbuck made it happen and still remains the marketing manager, main helper and go-to market gal.
The first year, there were around twenty vendors, but that number has grown each year since. In general, says Singer-Starbuck, 60-percent of the stalls sell food in some capacity, either fresh, prepared or preserved, like sauces, jams and spices. Greeters are posted at each entrance to help with everything from giving directions to relieving vendors who need a quick break.
The 2022 vendor line up includes, but isn’t limited to, Good Food Good Living, Bjorn’s Honey, Crystal’s Garden, Everybody Must Get Scones, La Biche, Garden Coffee, Pete’s Kombucha, Tamales Lady, Pastamore, Toby’s Po’boys, Mom’s Pralines, Milford Spice, Mush Love/Charlie, Paws & Us and Vicki’s Boutique along with various food trucks and pop-ups. On the produce side, there’s Palizzi Farms from Brighton and Forte Fruit from Palisade.
“I’m thrilled the market has gotten as strong as it has,” says Singer-Starbuck. “It’s become quite a thing for the community, and I am so excited that I am attached to something that’s such a feel-good in the area.”
Additionally, the market also works as a catalyst to raise money for schools. Singer-Starbuck has invited the local schools that have a garden to sell their produce at the market without a vendor fee. She also allows companies such as the non-profit Denver Urban Gardens, Compost Colorado and Denver’s Community Planning and Development to come in and have booths without paying for the space. Shoppers can enjoy live music and plenty of delicious samples being dished out as they wander around.
The University Hills Farmers Market runs from 9 am to 1 pm every Saturday through October 29, rain or shine. Looking for more farmers’ markets? Check out our list of every market in the Denver metro area.