A vendor took over a farmer’s market and made it grow

In April 2021, after the COVID-19 pandemic slowed, Norbert Quintero and Diego Caiola started the Miami Lakes Farmers Market with 18 vendors. They sold accessories and produce.

Two years later, the market is thriving, some weekends drawing as many as 1,000 customers. Its success in some ways is a classic immigrant story of entrepreneurs working together to grow modest businesses into something bigger and better. 

In 2019, Quintero worked as a clothing vendor at outdoor markets in Miami Beach at Lummus Park, Palmetto Bay and Coconut Grove. All of them took place on weekends — and he sold everything from jewelry to beach clothing.

That’s when he got the idea of creating his own market with a cooperative atmosphere, bringing in other merchants like him.

“I wanted this market to be a landmark for this community,” Quintero said. 

Quintero, who’s from Venezuela, came to the United States in 1993. He lived in New Jersey, then moved to Orlando in 1998. In 2013, he made the move to the Miami area. 

Caiola, born in Argentina, moved to Miami with his family at age 5. He grew up in the Miami Beach area.

Caiola and Quintero met in 2017 when Quintero and his wife worked as vendors at the Ocean Drive Artisan Market. Caiola managed that market. 

Because Quintero and his wife wanted to sell different products, they opened two different booths. Quintero focused on natural juices and fresh fruits. His wife sold jewelry and accessories. 

And then in April 2021, Quintero and Caiola learned of the opportunity in Miami Lakes. They launched their new market at the Main Street Shopping Center. Since its start, it has grown to an average of 45 to 70 vendors during the winter season and 35 to 45 during the summer. In the peak fall season, the market draws between 600 and 1000 customers. 

“The farmers market attracts people from local to the tourists that visit Florida,” Quintero said. 

Many of the vendors are starting businesses much like Quintero did — people with ambitions but not enough capital for a store. The Miami Lakes market allows them to grow their clientele before opening outside the market.

Norbert Quintero, owner of Miami Lakes Market, appreciates the market and its vendors, as he empathizes with their experiences. (Kaylin Linder / Caplin News)

Vendors sell everything from cute plushie backpacks to fresh fruits.

“We aim to establish growth-oriented goals for the smaller business coming to the market,” Quintero said.

Vendor Susana Aguila creates and sells candles she makes at home and has been crafting candles for the past three years. Looking for a creative release, Aguila found joy in her candle-making venture. What keeps Aguila coming back to the market is the strong sense of community that the market has helped build.

“The neighbors that come regularly have become family,” Aguila said.

Every week Quintero brings in new vendors. The rotation of the vendors keeps customers coming back to find new clothing, art and foods. 

The market also has Christmas events and children’s activities.

The Miami Lakes Farmers Market operates on Main Street and New Barn Road every Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Parking is free.

Kaylin Linder is a senior broadcasting journalism student at Florida International University. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in digital journalism. She has been in love with Journalism since the eighth grade and started to hone in on her love for writing in her freshman year of high school. She enjoys reading and watching anything that deals with true crime because she loves how reporters never forget who the victims were and what they meant to their loved ones. After graduating, Kaylin looks forward to reporting about injustices going on in the United States.