RUSKIN — When Clark's Furniture store in Ruskin closed, all that remained was a large, empty beige building and an expansive parking lot, right in the middle of the downtown area that community leaders wanted to revitalize.
Then, in August, high school students painted a colorful mural on the south wall of the building during Ruskin's monthlong Big Draw event.
To continue invigorating their town center, Ruskin leaders plan to launch a weekly outdoor market on March 28.
Organizers expect produce and art stands to dot the cracked pavement of the former furniture store's parking lot on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the Ruskin Community Market.
It's not a farmer's market (there's art, too), and it's not a flea market (no used items or antiques), said Fred Jacobsen, the president of the Ruskin Community Development Foundation, which will sponsor the market.
It'll feature locally grown and organic produce, plants and local arts and crafts, he said. Jacobsen wants to distinguish the market, which will welcome items from farmers, wholesalers and artists, by showcasing unique offerings.
"... Especially organics, when we can get them, and specialty items, like heirloom tomatoes, (and) things that don't travel well," he said.
Jacobsen wants the market to operate on Saturdays year-round.
He hopes it will raise Ruskin's profile, draw tourists and raise money for future foundation projects.
"It gives hope to the people that something can grow here," he said.
Interested sellers can still join, and priority will be given to those with local or organic products. Vendor spaces will be 10- by 10-feet and start at $25 per day.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2443.