ROUND ROCK, Texas - This past Saturday, Round Rock Honey announced after nearly 20 years it will no longer attend The Farmers Market at Republic Square because of unsafe and unpredictable conditions.
The owner says he feels the City of Austin continues to ignore the fallout from its growing homeless crisis.
Round Rock Honey opened for business 18 years ago and is owned by husband and wife Konrad and Elizabeth Bouffard. They are founding members of the Downtown Austin Farmer's Market and have taken pride in being family operated and supporting local farmer’s markets in Central Texas.
Konrad Bouffard says there have been countless run-ins with people who appear to be homeless and/or mentally ill, but his breaking point happened last month involving one of his youngest employees.
“What really pushed us over the edge was one of my employees was grabbed by a homeless man, it was a female employee and she was terrified, absolutely terrified,” he said.
He says the location in Republic Square is a hot spot for frequent violent activity and the business thought it'd be best to part ways.
“We quickly found that the SFC and police are not in a position where they can quickly respond to apprehend the subject which was problematic and there were so many people that that one incident could quickly become something that could become a crowd event," Bouffard said. "And that's the last thing we'd want associated with our business.”
Konrad Bouffard says he's really disappointed in the City of Austin and that he's reached out to the mayor at least three times.
“They don’t even care to respond, even though you're saying to them 'hey we need your help and we need it very badly', no response. That's very disheartening," Bouffard said. "The support was not there not only was there no regret, for the policies that allowed this to happen on the part of Mayor Adler's office but there really was a 'you don't matter to us' attitude.”
Bouffard says on the other hand, SFC’s Farmers Market called him Tuesday morning to apologize, even writing a post on their own Facebook page that same morning, that says in part:
“We have safety protocols in place and all our staff and crew are trained on how to handle a crisis situation should it occur. If at any time you observe an unsafe incident at either of our markets, please report it directly to one of our staff members so we can take appropriate action.”
FOX 7 Austin reached out to the city for comment and they said to reach out to SFC.
In the meantime, Bouffard says in no way has this genuine concern hurt their business.
"Eight other local markets that said please join our market so you can join a safe environment and continue to be record sales we won't lose money," Bouffard said.
Round Rock Honey says they'll continue to attend the Texas Farmers Market at Mueller each Sunday. They also offer free at-home delivery.
Mayor Steve Adler made a statement to FOX 7 Austin:
“Facts are important. Austin is the 4th safest large city in the country (closer to no. 1 than no. 5) and we remain fiercely committed to keeping our city safe. We are also committed to solving homelessness in our city. Remember people experiencing homelessness are more likely to be the victim of violent crime than to commit it.
Many people, including myself, really enjoy the SFC Farmer’s Market, a safe and popular part of Austin’s unique spirit. I’ve not heard directly from this vendor, have not heard of any safety concerns from any of the other vendors, and am following up with this vendor to learn more. I remain supportive of APD’s increased police presence in the downtown area - similar to successful efforts carried out a year ago.”