- September 10, 2014
Lakewood Ranch — Seven months after she brought her farmers market to Lakewood Ranch Main Street, Jennifer McCafferty believes she cooked up a recipe for a blossoming market.
With an average of 35 vendors each month, more than 1,000 attendees and the addition of musical acts, McCafferty believes her monthly outdoor event, Jen’s MarketPlace, has created what East County and surrounding areas’ residents sought since the previous market closed four years ago.
“People are continuing to come out and support this market,” McCafferty said. “It seems like the community wants us here,”
But McCafferty’s contract with Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty, the company that manages Main Street’s businesses, expires in May.
Last week, McCafferty approached Main Street Property Manager Amanda Zipperer about a contract extension through the summer, and into the fall if possible, she said.
As of press time Tuesday, the parties hadn’t reached an agreement.
“The contract is still scheduled to cease in May,” Zipperer said. “But no definite decision has been made at this time.”
While McCafferty and patrons await a decision on the market, Michelle Wise, president of Main Street’s Merchants Association, is crafting a survey to gauge business owners’ opinions about the monthly event.
The majority of business owners agree any event, whether it’s Music on Main or the farmers’ market, helps boost awareness of Main Street and increases business.
“The market, like a lot of the events we host on Main, help build a sense of community,” said Barry Rainwater, owner of American Shore Trading Co.
Naples Soap Co. Manager Kaitlyn Cobert’s main concern is that the market doesn’t happen often enough. Her customers often ask when the market is scheduled but frequently can’t attend on that particular Saturday, she said. Adding more days to its stay on Main Street would boost business and market sales, she said.
“Local people will support a summer market, but I can’t tell you how many times people can’t go on that one Saturday of the whole month,” Cobert said. “More people will come if it’s more of a regular thing.”
McCafferty also plans to talk with Zipperer about bringing her vendors to East County at least two Saturdays a month.
Adding more dates will grow interest in the market, she said.
“Farmers markets bring opportunities to eat healthier and boost healthy eating, organic products and a way for community to come together as a meeting place to socialize instead of sitting on the phone texting,” McCafferty said. “We’d like to have 50 vendors.”
She expects, should the contract extend through the summer, the market will maintain 30 vendors. McCafferty also believes the bulk of Ranch residents live in East County full time and would help keep her market afloat until the snowbirds return in the fall.
She doesn’t believe the area relies on tourism as much as other parts of the state or county.
“The beach markets and downtown Bradenton market don’t have quite as big of a full-time base as Lakewood Ranch,” McCafferty said. “But Lakewood Ranch has a community big enough to support a year-long market, like Sarasota.”
Should Main Street not renew its contract with McCafferty, the Ruskin resident will seek other locations for her market.
McCafferty and her husband, Dan, have scouted out church parking lots and fields, local parks and plazas on State Road 70 as potential backup plans.
“I definitely want to stay on Main Street,” McCafferty said. “We have a good thing going there, but I’m keeping options in mind.”
When Jen’s MarketPlace launched on Lakewood Ranch Main Street in August, nearly 2,000 people attended, despite high temperatures.
But, because of the heat, Jen’s MarketPlace owner Jen McCafferty is considering starting and ending the market earlier than its current 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. timeframe.
“This market is becoming a hub on Main Street where people go, even when it’s hot,” she said.