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Tampa's Downtown Market wraps up season on Sunday

Published:   |   Updated: May 19, 2014 at 11:11 AM

TAMPA — Jennica Robe was not happy to learn that Sunday will be the last Tampa Downtown Sunday Market until October.

Robe, who adheres to a gluten-free organic diet, works at the nearby Tampa Museum of Art. Every Sunday, she goes to the market for beet chips and mangos.

“That's going to change my whole world,” Robe said, after learning that May 25 is the last day of market season. “I'm really going to miss it. I always get food and a snack for later.”

Catherine Kelley, who sells the beet chips, said that she will miss the business. Kelley and husband Tom Kelley, of Minneola in Lake County, run Fruit 2 Nuts custom trail mixes. Catherine Kelley said that they will stay busy at markets in Carrollwood, downtown St. Petersburg, and at The Shops at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel.

On Sunday afternoon, a steady stream of customers — some pushing strollers, some walking dogs, some merely shopping for produce — browsed the market's dozens of vendors under cloudless skies. Live acoustic music by a duo known as The Hummingbirds filled the air.

Overseeing the market was Angela Vlachos Ruth, director of marketplace development with Tampa Downtown Partnership. Ruth said that the market will have a new location when it reopens in October, but it is too soon to say exactly where. It has operated at 601 N. Ashley, across from Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, since last year.

Ruth said that an average of about 300 people visit the market each Sunday, when it is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“This is our second year doing it on Sunday. It used to be on Friday,” Ruth said, adding that the market's previous location was on Franklin Street. “Our vendors wanted a weekend event, though, because on Friday, people could really just go on their lunch hour. We wanted to activate downtown on the weekends. Our vendors are starting to have a following.”

Because the downtown location resulted in “a lot more awareness” for the market, Ruth said that she hopes the next location will be nearby.

“It will still be a downtown urban market,” she said. “People feel that the market is important.”

Besides all manner of fresh fruit and vegetables, vendors on Sunday sold kettle corn, smoothies, spices, clothing, soaps, honey, hats and local photography, among other things.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday, Joan Priest, owner of New York Hats, chased down a top hat that had blown away from her display.

“Business has been good,” said Priest of New Tampa. “Not many people sell hats. I sell mostly to men.”

Besides top hats, Priest's Sunday selection included round derby hats, baseball caps and a popular style of floppy cloth hat known as a “Big Apple.”

Vendors Jonathan DeLura and Amber Fillinger of Brooksville said they have sold their Live Oak Organics products at the market since last month. On Sunday, there were colorful rows of fresh beets, summer squash, beans, cucumbers, basil and lettuce.

“We grow just about everything you can grow seasonally,” DeLura said. “There really aren't any other markets (near Brooksville).”

They said that their organic produce seems popular.

“We've had a lot of return customers,” Fillinger said.

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