Sunday, January 21, 2018
Business

First downtown Brooksville Farmers Market brings hope for future

BROOKSVILLE — Goods from the farm were few, but customers flowed steadily through the resurgent downtown Brooksville Farmers Market on Saturday, buying everything from preserved quail eggs to boiled peanuts and ogling stained glass, quilted textiles and other crafts.

Eighteen local vendors filled slots along leafy Main Street from Jefferson to Broad streets in the first of the weekly Saturday markets planned by the city's Parks and Recreation Department. A former volunteer-led effort petered out in 2011.

"I want to start small and work up," said rec department organizer Desiree Fratianni. "There's not a lot of produce in the summer, but come fall I will have produce here."

Rising Sun Cafe along Main Street put a dent in the void. Owner Catherine Reeves learned late last week of the need.

"We can't really have a farmers market without produce," Reeves declared.

"So, she ran down to our restaurant supplier and got some," explained husband Patrick Reeves.

He and their daughter, Emily, staffed a colorful greengrocer's tent, offering peaches, tomatoes, zucchini, sweet corn and other garden harvests. They sold out of watermelons by midmorning.

The Reeveses tucked the Rising Sun's menu among the produce and enticed visitors to stop by for lunch.

Debbie Burkett, owner with her husband, Chester, of Little Lady Cafe on nearby Brooksville Avenue, took advantage of the opportunity and busily sold iced tea from her vendor's slot while handing out sample menus that would get diners a free beverage with a meal at Little Lady.

"It seemed like a good way to get the word out," Burkett said.

While she handed out samples of the cafe's Cuban sandwich and saucy meatballs, Stanley Frank of Granpa Stan's tempted visitors to his tent with bites of preserved quail eggs and sugarless preserves.

"Never in my life," Nancy White of Spring Lake uttered as she accepted a bite of a Cajun-spiced quail egg. "It's good. It's very good."

She opted for the special, buying a pint of the eggs and getting one for free.

Alex Johnston of Zephyrhills snatched up a 3-pound jug of Green Swamp honey from Granpa Stan. "Actually, it was a really good price," she said.

Johnston and friend, Cristina Tremante of Inverness, had been to Patricia's Boutique at Main and Broad streets for wedding wear when they happened upon the market. Tremante purchased a bag of boiled peanuts, saying, "I was pretty excited they had them. I just buy them at festivals."

Maryann Bingel of Spring Hill went to the market to support her friend, author Arlene Anderson, who was hawking her latest book. Said Bingel, "I found a lot of other vendors that I really like. I bought jam, soap and peaches. I absolutely will be back."

"This is going to be a regular one for me," said Marni Butler of Tampa, from the vendor side of the market. The stained glass artist hadn't made a sale by midmorning, but was encouraged. "Quite a few people came in to look and take my card (for Fox Willows Art). Maybe they'll check the website, and maybe they'll consider custom work."

Similarly, surface design artist Susan Leslie Lumsden hadn't sold any of her hand-printed, quilted textiles: French press cozies, wall hangings, tiny totes, neck scarves. "Mostly, I'm here to promote my classes," she said, teaching dyeing, printing and painting fabrics, beginning in September.

"I appreciate the soft opening," Lumsden added. Having recently moved from Missouri, she said, "I haven't done this in so long. The fact that the city has taken it over, and not relying on volunteers, that to me is a big benefit."

A sampling of other vendors found no complaints and only a few suggestions for change.

The Brooksville Vision Foundation is a co-sponsor. Said its president, Cliff Manuel: "It's the kind of activity we like to see downtown."

At its next meeting in early August, Manuel said, he will recommend the foundation donate $1,000 to the market operation.

Already, added attractions arebeing planned. This Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the market will feature a car cruise-in, with admission for drivers and visitors the donation of a school supply for a student backpack project.

Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]

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