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Sarasota Thu May 28, 2009 5 years ago

Farmers Market eyes fresh ideas

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by: Robin Roy City Editor

The Downtown Farmers Market has been in operation for 30 years, and its managers think it’s time to freshen things up a bit.

Phil Chmieleski, chairman of the board of the Downtown Partnership, which runs the market, said although there’s not a lot to fix, he wants to keep generating excitement.

“We knew we had a great market,” he said, “but we don’t want to rest on our laurels.”

The partnership came up with a list of changes through a visioning committee it created.

“(The market) is a very important social experience, as well as a market,” said Ken Shelin, interim market manager. “It creates a sense of community.”

That social experience will be enhanced with the addition of more seating areas in the Lemon Avenue courtyard.

Chmieleski said the market wants to bring in more unique vendors, including more organic and green vendors.

The market will cross-promote with downtown merchants, because they feed off of each other.

Chmieleski just received a permit to expand the market to a portion of State Street. That area will not have permanent vendors, though. It will be reserved for special events, such as cooking demonstrations with food purchased at the market.

There was some previous discussion about closing the intersection of Main Street and Lemon Avenue, but it will remain open, and police volunteers will help reduce jaywalking incidents there.

Thirty years ago, the market began with just three vendors as a way to raise money for downtown holiday decorations. Today, there are 48 vendors, and Shelin hopes the improvement plans will create the opportunity for more expansion.

Said Shelin: “It’s going to grow. It’s going to be more vital.”

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