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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Entrepreneur, 16, revitalizes Milton Market.


Zack Eller shows packages of his dog biscuits at the Milton Farmers Market.

By Patrick Fox
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A late Friday thunderstorm put a crimp into 16-year-old Zack Eller's Saturday. There was a youth baseball game to make up by noon and another later in the day. But first, he had to supervise more than a dozen vendors at an open market in Milton's Crabapple community.

What was formally known as the Milton Farmers Market, a summer Saturday mainstay the past three years, is now the Milton Market. The shorter name is deceptive.

"We've definitely grown, mostly because I changed the name ... just to expand it, not just to fruits and vegetables but to baked goods and scarves," said Eller, a Milton High School junior. "We've also tried to expand it to the youth, and that's been one of my main goals."


Eller, himself a vendor at the market, sells homemade "Woof ‘em Down" dog biscuits from a center stand on the community grounds near the corner of Broadwell and Mayfield roads. The non-profit business he founded with his brother while in middle school has raised more than $12,000 for animal rescue groups over the years.

From his seat behind a vendor's table Saturday, Eller scanned the panorama of other vendors. There was a girl selling friendship bracelets, agroup of teens selling freshly squeezed lemonade.

"That was the main reason for the name change," Eller said, "to get the youth involved."Until this year, the market was almost exclusively a retail hub for fruits and vegetables. There were also few, if any, young people.

Tim Enloe, who ran the market from its inception in 2009, said he couldn't have found a more qualified successor. He knew Eller as a vendor who set up his dog biscuit stand every Saturday, always on time, always dependable.

This year, Enloe said, he didn't have the time to devote to the farmers market that it needed, so he reached out to Eller's parents, Tom and Traci to take over. Instead, they suggested their son.

"I was not only floored, I was wowed to know that a young man, hardly 16 years old, would be willing to take on this responsibility," Enloe said.

It wasn't the teen's first experience as an entrepreneur. The "Woof ‘em Down" biscuit venture grew from his childhood love of dogs. His first word was "dog," and he began asking for dog food for his birthday when he was 6 so he could contribute to shelters. At 8, he volunteered at animal shelters on weekends, bringing treats to the wayward canines. That's when the idea first occurred to him to start up his own business to benefit animals. With younger brother, Thomas, he formed the non-profit.

Once he took charge of the market, Eller's first act -- changing the name -- surprised Enloe.

"I never would've thought of that," Enloe said. "I'm jealous I didn't think of it but happy he did. What a great idea."

The new name signaled a new lineup. Eller spread the word at school and called, emailed and spoke with potential vendors. He created a website for the event, http://www.miltonmarket.weebly.com/.

Eller's second decision was to move the market from a parking lot near The Olde Blind Dog Irish Pub to its current location, which affords more space. To maneuver through the permitting process and follow all city codes, Eller went to the top.

"I met Zack Eller a few years ago and was impressed not only how he stepped out as an entrepreneur, but also his work with charities," Mayor Joe Lockwood said. "I'm proud of him."
Attendees at the market were no less impressed.

"I kind of thought, ‘Wow,'"
said David Neal of Alpharetta. "It's good for a youth to take the initiative."Paul and Caroline Dunn said they like the new location.

"I think it's cool, very entrepreneurial," Caroline Dunn said. "It's something to do during the summer."The Milton Market runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays through the end of July. After that, Eller plans to get back to baseball and biscuits.

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