NEW PORT RICHEY
Harley the maltipoo snoozed in the shade while his owner, Marie Lange, bought several bags of chocolate chip and lemon treats from Cassie's Cookies.
A bag of the baked vegetable Barking Chips from Doggie Cakes was already tucked into her shopping bag for Harley. The duo often stroll down Nebraska Avenue, enjoying the sunshine and the familiar faces of the vendors who sell their goods at the Fresh Friday Night Market.
The market, which features produce, flowers, honey, specialty foods and a kids' activity area, was slated to end its inaugural season this week. Due to popular demand, however, the organizers at Greater New Port Richey Main Street have decided to keep it going on the first Friday of every month.
That was welcome news to Trina Messano of Doggie Cakes, who has been delighting dogs with her healthy confections since the market began in October (her turkey-bacon-stuffed fortune cookies and custom cakes have been a big hit). She was worried when she thought the market would go on a summer hiatus.
"Out of mind, people forget about it, and then you have to start fresh with reminding people to come back out in the winter months," said Messano, a New Port Richey native. "So I am very happy that they decided to at least continue it monthly . . . I think our regular customers will continue to come out and support us."
Cassie and Scott Bookamer of Cassie's Cookies also applauded the move. Fresh Friday Night Market is their best market.
"It would've been hard for us if it had totally gone away," Cassie Bookamer said.
Cassie's Cookies offers gluten-free, vegan and traditional cookies that are made with local ingredients. The blackberry jam and shiraz wine jelly in their filled shortbread cookies come from Hotte's Sweet Shack, another vendor at the market. Every week, the couple spends 12 to 16 hours baking the 1,000 fresh cookies they bring to the market. The Bookamers, who trek to New Port Richey from their home in Zephyrhills, appreciate the community at the market.
"This is a great area for community involvement," Cassie Bookamer said. "A lot of people just walk here or they always come here every Friday. It's just part of their routine."
"And they're interested. They stick around. They talk to all the vendors," Scott Bookamer said. "They don't just walk straight through, browse a little bit and then go home. They want to get to know us. That's been really nice."
The Fresh Friday Night Market — which dropped "Farmer's" from its name to better reflect the wide variety of offerings — made its debut last fall as an alternative to previous Saturday morning farmer's markets.
"For being the first year on a Friday night, I think it's done exceptionally well," administrative coordinator for Greater New Port Richey Main Street Leah Robinson said. "About 80 percent of our vendors have been with us since the beginning, since October. That speaks volumes that they find it positive, so I think that speaks for itself."
Catherine Power, another vendor who has been at the Fresh Friday Night Market since the beginning, has found it to be a good outlet for her eclectic wares. The New Port Richey resident works at McNeill House Natural Living in Spring Hill and in her spare time, she sells natural stones, jewelry, fairy wings and headpieces. And homemade hula hoops.
Power crafts the hoops from tubing and wraps them in colorful tape, paying careful attention to the hoops' size.
"The larger they are, the slower the rotation," Power said. "It's easier to learn to hoop with a larger hoop. There's a lot more to it than just sticking a hoop together."