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A cooler market

By NICK JOHNSON
Published May 30, 2007


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This Saturday, a new morning market located at Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill and Gas Plant Antiques may be the beginning of a new summer routine for customers and vendors from the Saturday Morning Market.

The new market has no connection to the Saturday Morning Market other than the common vendors, who were contacted independently by Ferg's owner, Mark Ferguson. He estimates it will host between 60 and 80 of the same vendors, while also providing amenities the other site lacks. The original market, held from October through May along Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg, regularly offers about 100 vendors.

The restaurant will open for breakfast at 8 a.m. allowing customers to retreat into the air conditioning and grab a bite to eat, or use the restrooms.

Ferg's open patio area will also provide shade and fans to help combat the heat, while allowing people to navigate the booths with a beer or cocktail in hand.

Ferguson has taken an open approach in managing the market, saying he isn't concerned about competition from food vendors. "It doesn't interfere with our business at all, " he said, adding that vendors won't be serving alcohol. Despite some initial hesitation from vendors, he thinks his site will end up being better for everyone.

"Once they came down and saw it, they thought it was great, " Ferguson said, who initially contacted artist and vendor Juan Garanton about coming to the new site.

Garanton helped give fliers out to the other vendors to let them know about the summer market. "Now they all want to go, because their customers were asking if they were going to be there, " he said.

Mark Johnson, the Saturday Morning Market director, said he was not concerned about the new market drawing away vendors. He said that summer markets were not usually successful because of the heat and that the Saturday Market had fostered a sense of community that makes it feel good to be there. Johnson said these intangibles are what will set the two markets apart.

"My hope is that it lasts through the summer, but history tends to suggest that they don't, " he said of the new summer market. "Customers really want it, the vendors want to keep making money, but the heat is ever present."

With the Saturday Morning Market looking for a new location to accommodate growing numbers and the construction of the site they use eventually coming into play, Ferguson said he would be open to hosting the vendors beyond the planned September closing date. "When that time comes, we'll see what the vendors want to do, " he said. "If they want to stay here, that's fine. If they want to go, that's fine."

Garanton, who said he was one of the founding vendors at the Saturday Morning Market, hopes this will be a new opportunity for the vendors, but doesn't expect the two markets to compete. "It's another crowd that's going to be there, " he said, adding that the vendors in the community were very loyal. "I will go back to the Saturday Morning Market in a heartbeat."

Ferguson said he won't charge vendors for the first two weeks so they can give the new market a try.

He hopes the market will draw a crowd during a time when Ferg's normally wouldn't be doing any business and allow vendors a continued income over the summer.

Nick Johnson can be reached at nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 893-8361.

If you go

Summer market

What: A new market with about 60 to 80 vendors.

When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 2 through Sept. 29.

Where: Along Central Avenue between Ferg's Sports Bar and Gas Plant Antiques, near 13th Street.

[Last modified May 29, 2007, 19:33:47]


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