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Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014

South St. Pete getting local market


ST. PETERSBURG — The historical 22nd Street South area will join the budding local market scene Sunday, aiming to build a healthier, more united community through fresh produce, live entertainment and a family-friendly atmosphere.

The market, to be held from 1 to 6 p.m. every Sunday in a lot off 22nd Street and Ninth Avenue, is the latest initiative of Deuces Live, a Florida Main Street organization for the revival of the once-thriving neighborhood.

Gospel and R&B music will be one of the ways the Deuces Live Sunday Market will set itself apart from St. Petersburg’s weekend market options.

The market is one of the group’s attempts to revitalize the district, which only 40 years ago was a cultural epicenter, attracting famous black athletes and musicians.

Tony Macon, president of Deuces Live and owner of Esquire Barber Shop, 22nd Street South’s longest-active business, remembers the area’s brighter days.

Having lived in St. Petersburg since 1969, Macon saw a time when there were more than 100 small businesses along 22nd Street South. It had restaurants, hospitals, repair shops — everything a thriving community needs, he said. But when Interstate 275 was built, separating South St. Petersburg from the rest of the city, these flourishing businesses started dying out, and so did the street’s liveliness.

Deuces Live wants to bring 22nd Street South back to life, and the Sunday market is expected to be a vital step.

Macon hopes it will “get people’s feet on the street and make them want to be part of the community’s growth.”

“It’s something to motivate people on this side of town to get out and do something,” he said.

The market also will help to bring nutritious foods to people who may not otherwise have access, said Veatrice Farrel, Deuces Live program manager. She said they are working with the city so market vendors can accept EBT cards as payment.

Antwaun Wells, Deuces Live treasurer, doesn’t fear the competition, even with popular weekend markets such as the Saturday Morning Market, the 600 Block Indie Market and others in the area.

“The effort is to get people who are already going [to markets] and people who don’t,” he said, explaining that many residents living near 22nd Street don’t have transportation to other parts of the city. Now they will have a market and access to nutritious food within walking distance.

But to rebuild a prosperous community, Macon knows it will take more than vegetables. They also must change St. Petersburg residents’ mindsets about 22nd Street. Their efforts seem to be paying off.

Since Deuces Live started in 2011, the street is busier, new businesses are opening and old businesses, such as the Manhattan Casino, are reopening. And more people are showing interest in patronizing the district.

Recently, a new customer came into Macon’s barbershop, a rare occurrence for the long-established post, and noted how far things had come since he last visited the area. Then he asked how he could help.

Macon thinks rebuilding 22nd Street must be a citywide effort.

“We have to work together in order to survive and thrive,” he said, adding that the Sunday market, along with other Deuces Live events, welcomes residents of St. Petersburg and beyond.

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