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New day, venue give Pinellas Park's Saturday Morning Market better visibility

PINELLAS PARK — This city's second stab at creating a green market seems to be faring much better than the first try.

Among the reasons: Changes in day, venue and management.

The first green market, which Pinellas Park tried a couple of years ago, was shopped out to a professional event organizer. But the only day he had free was Monday, so that's when the market was scheduled.

But that's not a day when most folks are thinking about leisurely shopping for homemade goodies and handmade crafts. So, this time, the market is scheduled on Saturday mornings.

And, because the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce is running the market, it has been moved to Park Station, the city's faux train station on Park Boulevard. It's a much more visible location. The tents can easily be seen by drivers speeding by on Park.

And locating it at Park Station has given the chamber and the art and historical societies a chance to strut their stuff. That's because the city opens Park Station during the market hours, giving folks a place to sit or a chance to tour the building, its historical displays and even take an art lesson. Roe's Deli, the sandwich shop in the Park Station lobby, also opens so shoppers can get drinks, soup, sandwiches and salads if the market's homemade goodies fail to attract.

Gene Lofgren, the chamber official in charge of the market, said 50 vendors have tried selling their wares at the market. The usual number that show up each Saturday is about 30, he said.

Among the finds are handmade jewelry, local honey and crafts. And if shoppers feel a bit faint, they can munch on the homemade cookies or eat a lunch of smoked mullet, smoked ribs, pulled pork or deli sandwiches.

"You don't leave here hungry," Lofgren said. "I'm trying to be on a diet, and every week I (sample the products)."

Lofgren said he's pretty strict about the type of products because he doesn't want flea market type goods, just original arts, crafts and foodstuffs.

The relatively small footprint of the market makes for a cozy atmosphere that many of the vendors described as "family."

Byron Graham of St. Petersburg is a regular vendor at the Pinellas Park market. Graham, whose smoked mullet usually sells out fairly early in the day, was experimenting with conch fritters one recent Saturday.

Graham said he was attracted to the Pinellas Park venue because it was so much friendlier than the atmosphere in St. Petersburg, which has "too many regulations. Too many rules. This place is family oriented."

Graham added, "The mayor here sticks out his hand, makes you feel welcome."

More than welcome, in fact. Graham said Pinellas Park Mayor Bill Mischler is helping him find a storefront so he can open a restaurant.

Deborah Cline is the head of human resources for the town of Madeira Beach, but on Saturdays, she can be found selling her handmade jewelry at the market.

"This is what I do after work to relax," Cline said. "I just sit down and make things that make me happy."

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

IF YOU GO

Pinellas Park Saturday Morning Market

8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays year-round. The market is on the lawn by Park Station, 5851 Park Blvd., but will move behind the building after holiday decorations are put up. Parking is to the north of the building. For more information, call the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce at (727) 544-4777.

New day, venue give Pinellas Park's Saturday Morning Market better visibility 11/28/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 28, 2009 3:31am]

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