LAKEWOOD RANCH — A couple from Ruskin is putting a fresh spin on a familiar concept — an idea that’s headed back to Lakewood Ranch Main Street for a test run after a three-year hiatus.
Next weekend, Jennifer and Dan McCafferty will bring an outdoor farmers market back to Lakewood Ranch Main Street. It’s called Jen’s MarketPlace.
“I think there is definitely a market here for a market,” Jennifer McCafferty said. “This will only boost commerce in the area.”
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 30, fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and seafood, along with photography and other craft booths, will fill the corridor between Chico’s and Premier Sotheby’s International Realty.
So far, about 10 vendors have committed to the East County market. Participants include: CowPaddy Fudge, Didday Giclee Art Prints, Fresh from the Boat Seafood, It’s A’peeling (cooking utensils) and Krazy Cajun Kitchen, among others.
Admittance and parking are free. Pets are also welcome.
Currently, the farmers market is only slated for August but may continue through the rest of the year, contingent on feedback from Main Street business owners and other logistics that will surface after the Aug. 30 test run, said Amanda Vercheski, of Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty.
Lakewood Ranch Commercial manages businesses on Main Street and has been working with McCafferty to gauge owners’ perspectives on adding the monthly event to the doorsteps of their businesses.
Merchants who earn their livelihood on the strip have largely supported the idea of bringing a market back to Main Street. Only a few owners dissent, Vercheski said.
Theresa Barion, owner of Arts A Blaze Studio, agrees with business owners who are ready for an event to break up the offseason lull.
Although Barion’s studio sits more than 10 spaces away from the market location, the event will benefit more than hurt her business, she said.
“I think having a market here again is a great idea,” Barion said. “My view is that it gets people walking around, even though it’ll be held on the bigger front part of Main Street; it’ll get people coming my way. It’s a boost to the street.”
McCafferty and Michelle Wise, owner of Unleashed for Pets and the liaison between business owners and the McCaffertys, agreed.
“We need more customers on this street on Saturdays,” Wise said. “You know, it’s ‘United we stand and united we fall.’ We succeed as a brand. Lakewood Ranch Main Street is a brand. If someone comes to the market and doesn’t find what they’re looking for, a vendor can easily direct that customer to a store on the street that does offer that item. We work together.”
Fannie May owner Joan Ayersman is undecided about Main Street’s temporary occupants.
Ayersman sells handmade chocolates and a few fudge flavors viewable from the large windows at the store’s entrance. A vendor at the farmers market will also have fudge for sale.
“We don’t focus on fudge as one of our main items,” Ayersman said. “If someone set up a booth outside my door selling handmade chocolates, I’d see a little more of a problem. I’m OK with the market, though. I’m hoping it will get more people over here (to the store and Main Street) during the slow season.”
As to not compete with business owners on the strip, for the first month, the farmers market will not offer soap or handmade beaded jewelry.
McCafferty and Wise hope future markets will offer a greater range of products if Lakewood Ranch Commercial extends a formal contract to continue the market after August.
Vercheski said an agreement is still in the works and no final details have been decided.
Business owners said the lack of product options and a waning patron interest played critical roles in the closure of the previous farmers market, which ran from 2009 to 2011.
“There wasn’t enough variety,” Barion said. “There will be children coming with their parents, so we need to have something for them to do, some activity that appeals to kids. Before, the market only invited shop owners who sold food to participate. That narrowed the market down.”
At Jen’s MarketPlace, vendors will offer products in addition to fresh produce.
McCafferty, a social media guru, plans to utilize her business’s Facebook page — Jen’s Market Inc. to promote the event. Posting updates and photos from the three other markets she manages — two in Apollo Beach and one in Largo that launches in September — she believes she can achieve her 40- to 50-vendor goal at the Lakewood Ranch farmers market within the next few months and generate foot traffic.
McCafferty decided to bring a location to Main Street after talking with vendors at her other locations who had participated in the Lakewood Ranch market three years ago.
The friendliness of residents caught her attention, and the Ranch’s community feel brought her here, she said.
“They (vendors) said the other market here did pretty well and there was definitely an interest,”
McCaffferty said. “You have to appeal to the community. We want the community to shop here. I’m sure there are plenty of people who drive University Parkway every day and never make that turn onto Main Street. We’re trying to get them to come over this way and say, ‘Oh, I never knew this shop or this event existed.’”
For more information on the market, visit jens-market.com.
BY THE NUMBERS
1 — The number of days the market will be held each month.
3 — The number of other Tampa Bay markets Jennifer McCafferty manages.
4 — The number of hours each market is open.
10 — The estimated number of vendors so far.
170 — The collective number of vendors in all Jennifer McCafferty’s markets.
Contact Amanda Sebastiano at email@example.com.