SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — Wouldn't it be nice to gather somewhere Sunday morning, where you can grab a cup of organic fair trade coffee and a warm pierogi, mingle with your neighbors and browse through organic produce and handmade soaps?
It's a utopia that many Seminole Heights residents have dreamed about since moving into the historic neighborhood that has been slowly gentrifying for more than a decade.
And it's what organizers of the Seminole Heights Sunday Morning Market hope they will bring to the community, beginning Sunday on the front lawn of Hillsborough High School.
"Seminole Heights has always been progressive, and they've wanted this sort of thing all the time," said Tiffany Ferrecchia, market manager and operations director. "They're the kind of community that's full of thinkers. They want things like a community garden and a neighborhood full of the arts."
Ferrecchia previously established the Tampa Downtown Market, which runs on Fridays between the 400 block of Franklin and the 200 block of Madison streets. That market has grown to more than 60 vendors serving locally made Greek food, Belgian waffles, crepes, smoothies, Caribbean sauces, banana bread, spices, olive oil, soaps, jewelry and art.
Ferrechia envisions much of the same at the Seminole Heights market except that she wants to see more local or organic produce and "eco-friendly" items sold.
"I'd like to turn this one into a little bit more of a green market," she said.
The idea for the market came from Greg Barnhill, a longtime Seminole Heights resident who organized the neighborhood's first home tour more than a decade ago. He approached Ferrechia about starting the market in Seminole Heights, hoping to create an event that would draw in people from all over the city. Outsiders, he hopes, will get a sense of the neighborhood's true "vibe" and a taste of the economic resurgence going on here.
"It really is going to send the message to people who haven't come to our home tour that there really is a viable economy here," Barnhill said. "It also seems to reinforce that 'local' movement. I know during this economic downturn, people are coming back to their neighborhoods to spend time with their friends and neighbors, and it reinforces the idea of community."
These days, Seminole Heights is finally tasting the fruits of its long-suffering revival. Popular eateries such as the Bungalow Bistro, Front Porch Grill & Bar, Cappy's Pizza, Sooo Good BBQ and Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe have sprung up on streets formerly known for pawn shops and illegal solicitation. The Independent pub has finally given the area a noted night spot. Groups such as the Seminole Heights Bicycle Club have helped sew the community together with rides, including the upcoming Feb. 27 "Hub-Grub" crawl that highlights local businesses. The Seminole Heights Community Garden, going on 2 years old, represents the environmental ideals of many in the neighborhood.
An outdoor or farmer's market can add to this momentum, Barnhill said.
Such markets provide extra opportunities for local farmers, give neighborhoods fresh and nutritious local produce and strengthen community ties by pulling together people from all social stratas, according to a 2006 study on farmers markets by Farmers' Market Federation of New York. They also turn unused public spaces into vibrant centers that boost nearby businesses with extra foot traffic.
According to the Florida Division of Agriculture, 120 farmers markets exist in the state, including four others in Hillsborough County: the Sweet-water Sunday Organic Market in Town 'N Country, the Tampa Wholesale Produce Market on E Hillsborough Avenue, the Tampa Downtown Market and the Ybor City Saturday Market.
Ferrecchia said that 60 vendors had signed up for the Seminole Heights market, offering such fare as veggie burgers, fresh squeezed lemonade and limeade, organic coffee and tea, homemade Italian food, wood-fired pizza from an on-site wood-burning stove, English pies, baked crab cakes, Polish pierogis, three different flavors of kettle corn, smoothies and German bratwursts. Much of the food will come from neighborhood restaurants, Ferrecchia said.
Suzanne Crouch, a chef at Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe, will also put on a cooking demonstration at 11:30 a.m. using ingredients she will pick off of vendors' tables.
The demonstration is something organizers hope will continue using a rotation of neighborhood chefs, who have clamored for a market like this.
"It's good for the neighborhood," Crouch said. "It's something to do together. Everyone gets out and everyone hangs out."
Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or [email protected]