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Madeira merchants put faith in 'Monthly Madness'


Published:   |   Updated: July 6, 2013 at 05:10 PM

MADEIRA BEACH - Vendors and shoppers were delighted to see the sun Saturday at the Madeira Beach Craft Festival.

Amber Grinovich, who sells wine jellies in varieties like pomegranate pinot noir, said a week of seemingly non-stop rain made her nervous about the two-day street festival this weekend.

"The sun was such a relief," said Grinovich, of Tarpon Springs.

Shopkeepers along this short commercial block felt even more relieved at seeing all the foot traffic on Madeira Way, a two-lane street that cuts between Tom Stuart Causeway and Gulf Boulevard.

The beach's old business core was nearly a ghost town just a few years ago and the pioneering entrepreneurs who have moved in since then have struggled to show locals and tourists there is life here again.

The July craft festival that began last year has helped, but a group of businesses successfully lobbied the city and the local chamber of commerce to start hosting events here at least one weekend a month to bring in more people.

The events kicked off in May with a wearable art show followed by a car show in June. Next month there will be a motorcycle show.

In Pinellas County, where there's an art or craft festival nearly every weekend, the idea is to have a different type of event every month that appeals to different groups of people, said Jane Jones, who helps run the Eclektica boutique thrift store with her daughter, Joelle.

"We were all dying basically. We were all thinking about moving out," said Jones, who opened here two years ago.

"A lot of the locals still don't realize these stores are here and open. They drive by and they don't even notice because they've been closed for so many years."

On a typical summer weekend, Eclektica closes in the early afternoon after most potential customers have settled in at the beach, Joelle Jones said.

Events like the craft festival, which continues today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., keep more people on the streets for longer buying paintings, plants and gourmet dog treats from dozens of street vendors before wandering into the surrounding shops.

Chad and Diana Andree were passing by on the way back to their hotel in St. Pete Beach when they saw the crowd on the street.

"We figured we were just going to drive by Madeira Beach and Treasure Island on the way back down to St. Pete Beach and we saw this and so we stopped," said Chad Andree, who was vacationing from Texas.

A steady stream of customers rifled through shelves of paperbacks Saturday afternoon at Sean Donnelly's used book store.

He expected many of them would return.

"I don't think it's a one-time shot in the arm because these are mostly local people, so if they find you here, hopefully they'll come back on a non-festival day," he said.

Barb Jones also had a big influx of people at her antique shop, Mad Beach Pickers, which she opened here a year and a half ago.

Jones was part of a long-running effort to convince the city to start the Monthly Madness street events on Madeira Way.

She's hopeful the events will help restore this street's place as the city's central business district.

"There's a lot of new businesses opening here and we're trying to bring everybody back to shop local," she said.

For more information on monthly events at Madeira Beach, go to www.SIKPromotions.com.

jboatwright@tampatrib.com

727-215-1277

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