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Jen's MarketPlace farmers market uproots from Lakewood Ranch Main Street

After 13 months on Main Street, the market is leaving the shopping strip. The last farmers market will be held Saturday.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. September 23, 2015
Jennifer McCafferty has managed a farmers market on Lakewood Ranch Main Street for 13 months. Sept. 26 is her last market on Main Street.
Jennifer McCafferty has managed a farmers market on Lakewood Ranch Main Street for 13 months. Sept. 26 is her last market on Main Street.
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Thirteen months after Jen's MarketPlace sprouted on Lakewood Ranch Main Street, the farmers market's organizer, Jennifer McCafferty, is moving operations from the shopping strip.

McCafferty and Amanda Zipperer, property manager/leasing agent for Main Street, failed to come to an agreement to renew the contract after the market's last scheduled event Sept. 26.

"We felt that we needed a different mix of vendors," Zipperer said. "And, we were experiencing scheduling difficulties with the farmers market in its current operation on Main Street."

The farmers market kicked off Aug. 30, 2014, after a three-year hiatus since a previous market left.

"Lakewood Ranch is a friendly community," McCafferty said. "I’m sad about this move. Main Street was a very nice venue; my vendors enjoyed it and most of the merchants appreciated what we were doing here."

Lesley Harb, co-owner of Fast N Fresh on Main Street, said the market didn't offer enough of a "true farmers market feel," and seemed like more of a craft fair.

In comparison to the farmers market held in Sarasota, Harb thought attendance of the East County market was low, and residents potentially lost interest.

The event might have had an effect on her business, but not in a positive way, she said.

"When Main Street is blocked off, that always affects business in some way," Harb said. "And, I just don't think there was enough advertising for the market to make it successful here."

Michelle Wise, president of the Main Street Merchants Association and owner of Unleashed for Pets, polled merchants to gauge their feelings on the market extending its contract. She said all but one member agreed.

Wise noted that the fourth Saturday of each month, the day the farmers market was held on Main Street, was her most profitable Saturday of the month.

"The market drew new people to the street and was a great place for families with children and pets to gather, enjoy the outside, stroll, shop and dine," Wise said.

Although her store, Healthy Living Organic and Natural Market, sold some products similar to those offered at the market, Maria Rosabal said she also noticed an increase in foot traffic during the four hours the market manned the strip.

Although she doesn't work many Saturdays, Dixie Gingerich, an employee at Big Olaf Creamery, noticed a busier Main Street during certain farmers markets.

But because the market only happened once a month, she didn't believe it would last.

"Once a month just wasn't enough," Gingerich said. "But it was nice to be able to walk down the street and buy some bananas if I ran out."

Leonard Horak, owner of Circle 6 Farm and Ranch, said the location was successful for him as a vendor. He has run a booth at every market held on Main Street over the last year.

He attends five other markets in Tampa and St. Petersburg, but the Ranch market was his favorite, because of consistent turnout and the growing interest in the community, he said.

"Sure, August was hot and not as many people wanted to walk around outside, but people were genuinely interested in the market, Horak said. "Lakewood Ranch had the community interest we were looking for."

In the early months of the market's tenure, McCafferty faced some opposition from merchants who felt the market was taking away business from their stores, because it offered some similar products. She later prohibited vendors who sold soap, handmade jewelry and other items that might compete with Main Street tenants. 

Although her contract was not renewed, McCafferty isn't ruling out the possibility of offering another market in the future — maybe even on Main Street.

"We remain interested in having a true farmers market at a location within Lakewood Ranch," Zipperer said. "We will continue to pursue this and hope to re-establish a venue that provides a more traditional farmers market experience at Lakewood Ranch in the future."

Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected].


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