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Great weather greets first Sunday for Downtown Tampa Market

TAMPA — Idyllic weather and a large crowd helped the Tampa Downtown Market make a smooth transition from years of Fridays to its first Sunday.

Shoppers, some in church clothes and some pushing strollers, spent the sunny afternoon leisurely shopping more than 30 booths selling products from fresh produce to gourmet dog treats to homemade soaps.

The Tampa Downtown Partnership canceled its four years of Friday downtown markets — which featured food trucks, local farmers and small merchants — after it said surveys and focus groups showed downtown workers didn't have time to shop on their lunch hours. The decision also coincided with complaints by restaurants that the food vendors were taking away business.

So the partnership moved the farmers market, minus the ready-to-eat food, to Sundays, and it replaced the Friday event with "Lunch on the Lawn" at Lykes Gaslight Square Park.

The Sunday market is available to more people than just those who work in the area and hurriedly shop on their lunch breaks, said Donna Chen, the partnership's marketing director.

"And it's a nice, laid-back way for people to spend their Sundays," she said.

The turnout was promising, she said. Organizers hope to expand the market to about 50 booths in the coming weeks.

Cooled by a steady breeze, marketgoers stopped at the covered booths, sampling and touching the products as a jazz trio played in the background.

The market stretched down Franklin Street from Polk to Twiggs streets. It will be open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday through May.

The produce stand, which sells a large variety of fruits and vegetables, always got good business on Fridays and seemed to be doing well at the new time, Chen said.

It was the first place Peter Ilchuk, 65, stopped after Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

Clutching a brown paper bag filled with fresh vegetables and hummus, Ilchuk stopped to tell Chen he liked the new day.

He lives in the Channel District, he said, and it was hard for him walk over in the Friday traffic. Now, he can just pop over after church.

"It's more convenient for me," he said.

Leah King, 55, was selling organic eggs from her farm in Land O'Lakes. The business and atmosphere is so good, she said, she will be back next week.

"I love it," she said. "I think it's going to end up being really big. This is exactly what downtown needs."

It was the first Tampa Downtown Market for Linda Florea, who came from Orlando to sell her custom-blended Florida Teas.

Each of her teas has a Florida twist, she said. This week, her showcase item was Coconut Custard Tea, which she allowed shoppers to smell and sample first. She'll be back next week with her Dreamsicle Delight Iced Tea.

"There's not a huge crowd, but they came here to buy, not just for something to do," Florea said.

But that's not to say the atmosphere wasn't fun, she said.

Many people brought children or dogs. Chairs and tables were set up in the shade so customers could stop and enjoy custom trail mix or handmade ice pops.

"The crowd is great," said Melissa Sanchez, 40, who was working at the V Spicery booth selling spices and flavored olive oil. "It's been a constant flow. It's a great atmosphere."

Great weather greets first Sunday for Downtown Tampa Market 10/14/12 [Last modified: Sunday, October 14, 2012 11:34pm]
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