SPRING HILL — Customers and vendors alike are cheering the Hernando County Farmers Market's recent move to the parking lot fronting Towne Square Mall.
Relocating from a similar lot at Rural King, a scant mile north on U.S. 19, has accorded the Spring Hill market patrons more parking and easier access via a traffic light at its entrance. Vendors praise a more organized layout of booths, higher visibility that attracts on-a-whim customers and new shoppers drawn from mall patrons and the nearby Timber Pines development.
"Everybody came," said organizer Desiree Canora of vendors from the Rural King site, where independent sellers gathered every Saturday for eight years. "In the peak season, when the Northerners are here, we'll expand."
Vendors number about 35, occupying some 2,400 square feet and served by at least 200 parking slots.
"We have a waiting list of vendors," Canora said. "We're being a little pickier this time. It's truly all about the vendors' quality." She and co-leader Tammy Patrick also want to avoid vendors competing against vendors.
"One person who sells soap, one person who sells honey," Canora said. "We want to keep to farm, homemade, handmade, even a small business that can't afford a storefront."
A recent Saturday visit revealed charter member Beasley Farm, whose fresh produce spread across 60 feet of tables. Also for sale were Amish-made bologna, cheeses, jams and relishes, and a women's casual clothier, plus herbal cosmetics and supplements, honey, gluten-free baked goods, handmade jewelry, pet food and supplies, heirloom vegetable plants and seeds, woodcrafts and lawn ornaments.
Repeat shopper Melanie Paradise-Wathen of Spring Hill, who came to buy Amish hot pepper jam, likes the new location.
"I think it's actually better," she said, "a little better organized."
On the warm morning, Cassandra Kreig of Spring Hill arrived at the Jen & Jen clothier booth bearing iced coffee for entrepreneurs Jen Harper and Jen Thomas.
"They make you feel like family," Kreig said. She's shopped their both for a year.
The double-sized booth of the Humane Society of Hernando County was selling pet supplies.
"Customers have followed us, absolutely," said Sandy Berg.
Her cohort, Sue Krahula, praised the parking.
"Even golf carts come over," from Timber Pines, she said.
Rural King assistant manager Mark McCabe said the farmers market and farm and home supply store benefitted from each other's presence, but parking was becoming a challenge.
"The farmers market took up approximately 30 percent of our space. Parking spaces for our customers became more and more important," he said, especially on the store's busiest day of the week.
"We're very, very supportive of them," McCabe added. "We tell people exactly where they are. We hope they're doing the same for us."
Mall marketing manager Richard Sanbenero raved about his new addition.
"We've been trying to get them here for two years," he said last month. "We were packed last week."
The outdoor venue plays into the mall's plan for a new indoor endeavor it's calling Weekend Market — "a kind of garage-sale in air conditioning," Sanbenero said.
An aisle in a former big box store will be designated for part-time sellers of used goods on Fridays and weekends for $25 per day. Prospective sellers can contact him at (352) 340-7579.
Applicants for farmers market space can contact Canora at (352) 345-1446. The new address for the market is 3021 Commercial Way
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