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Fresh ideas may save market

Published Oct. 12, 2005

When Michele Niesen looks at downtown Dunedin she sees a place with potential.

It has great shops, restaurants and places to rest, with a view of the Gulf of Mexico just a few blocks away. All it needs is a draw, she says.

Enter her vision: a revamped downtown farmers market.

The latest incarnation of the downtown market will be called the Green Market and is scheduled to be unveiled Saturday morning. About 17 vendors plan to set up shop in the center of downtown peddling everything from gourmet foods to exotic plants. Shoppers will be accompanied by a reggae band. While the market has no main theme, the idea behind it was to make it nature friendly, Niesen said.

"We wanted to go for recycled things and organically grown things," she said.

What will appear from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. will be a conglomeration of produce, gourmet foods, spices from the Caribbean, exotic plants, fruit juices and crafts made of recycled glass, Niesen said. She thinks people will be drawn to town by the interesting items and stay to look around at the local businesses.

Her interest in doing the market is professional. As the owner of AlterEgo, a marketing company downtown, she knows a good market may bring her increased clientele. She also was responsible for running the successful Ybor City Farmers Market, which drew more than 4,000 people when she operated it.

But there is a more personal reason why she is involved, she said.

"You've got to start somewhere," Niesen said. "I grew up here. I am sick of seeing everything go downhill. Someone has to care if the community goes down the tubes."

Downtown merchants and the city are banking on Niesen's fervor and experience.

"I feel the type of flavor she wants to do will work," said Hugh Long, manager of the Sun Bliss Apartments in downtown Dunedin and a member of the Downtown Merchants Association. "We want people to come downtown. This will give them a reason."

The Dunedin City Commission gave Niesen control of the market during its meeting Thursday night for a three-month trial period. The city also waived permitting fees and insurance requirements during that time.

The market's track record hasn't been the best since it was started in 1989. At one time the city took it over, but staff found running it too time-consuming and handed control over to local business woman Joyce Young. Young said she found it hard to get people to come out.

Niesen is the third to try running the market. She hopes it is a charm.

"I'm very excited about it," Niesen said. "It will get better as time goes on."

To market

The Green Market takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in Downtown Dunedin on the east side of Railroad Avenue, just across the street from the Old Feed Store.