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Sunday, Sep 21, 2014
Business News

New Duckweed market opens in downtown Element tower

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More customers wandered into the new, much larger Duckweed Urban Market in a few hours Tuesday than had walked through in days at the previous location across the street. They came for wine, for bags of ground coffee, for tubs of organic salsa, for organic grapes and racks of all-natural cereal boxes.

The natural and organic-­focused store in downtown Tampa isn't even fully built out inside, but the store formally opened Tuesday, and owner Michelle Deatherage is thrilled and greets each new customer like a new friend.

"Oh hi, hi!" she said to one. "We're so glad you're here. Can we get you anything? We can't really sell you wine yet because I still have to sign the paperwork today, but anything else you need?"

For years, the market operated in a closet-sized space on East Polk Street, but then jumped at the chance to move into a roughly 2,500-square- foot space at the foot of the Element tower that faces North Tampa Street. There are racks of Erewhon organic cereal for $5.99, baskets of Family Farms organic maple syrup for $5.99, rows of Sriracha hot sauce bottles for $4.25 and tubs of Sunset Salsa for $3.99, plus rows of necessary elements for the downtown dweller - gum, bread, condoms, suntan lotion, dog food, paper towels and so on.

The space is about the size of a 7-Eleven location, and has ceilings tall enough for the owners to build several loft spaces. The first loft is already up, and Deatherage plans to install couches, chairs and space for a band. Soon, their produce supplier will start bringing in racks of fresh vegetables and fruits, and the store will expand with either all-local vendors or specialty producers from around the world.

Diana Gerardi used to live in the Element tower above the store, but drove back to Duckweed on Tuesday to check out the space and buy grapes and crackers. "We're really trying to eat healthy," she said. "And it's great to stop in to a small place where it's easy to get in and get out."

Over time, Duckweed will build out tables for customers to eat, and Deatherage hopes to make the store more of a hangout than a typical grocery store. Hours will start at 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, but then expand to 11 p.m. on weekends.

"We want this to be a place where you can drop by after work, buy a beer from the shelf, get a sandwich, listen to a band and chat with people in the neighborhood."

rmullins@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7919

Twitter: @DailyDeadline

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