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Tampa's weekly market moves from Friday to Sunday

TAMPA - The Tampa Downtown Market, a Friday lunchtime staple since 2008, is now going to be a Sunday event. For those interested in a Friday lunchtime event downtown, however, something new has emerged: "Lunch on the Lawn" at Lykes Gaslight Square Park. "Market research showed both consumers and vendors overall preferred a Sunday outdoor market where people can spend more time shopping for organic produce and unique, local products," according to a release from Tampa Downtown Partnership, host of both events. "Consumers however still wanted a special lunchtime activity on Friday that focused on food, entertainment and spending time with friends and co-workers." In July, the partnership announced to dozens of vendors that the market, which attracted hundreds of visitors weekly between October and May, wouldn't return.
The change was made partly because somedowntown restaurants objected to the Friday market, saying food vendors were luring away customers as the market migrated from Franklin Street to Madison Street and finally to Twiggs Street. The downtown partnership used market research, surveys and focus groups to determine the future of the market, said Donna Chen, the group's marketing and communications director. The information showed that downtown office workers liked coming out on Fridays and having a nice lunch with friends. But "they really have limited time to shop," Chen said. "And a lot of people weren't looking to buy their weeks' worth of produce and jam it into their refrigerators with all their coworkers' [food]." The new Sunday market begins Oct. 14 and will be held every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the 600 and 700 blocks of North Franklin Street. The partnership heard clearly from people that the downtown market is a great concept, a release stated. The market will offer locally grown organic vegetables, eggs, herbs, spices and artisan breads. It also will offer everything from locally designed fashions and accessories to local artwork and dog adoptions. The Friday market drew 40 to 60 vendors; the Sunday market already has 40 signed up, Chen said. The partnership wants a maximum of 50 vendors for the Sunday event. Chen said she doesn't believe other area markets will be dramatically impacted by the downtown Sunday event. "In fact, we avoided Saturdays because of the Ybor market," she said. "We were trying to be sensitive with that. We just felt that there was a little bit of a void with our demographic and our target market on Sundays." Meanwhile, Fridaylunches at Lykes Gaslight Square Park, 410 N. Franklin St., begin Oct. 5. They will run 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Friday through May. "The 50,000 downtown workers who call Tampa's downtown their home base during the work week tend to dress casual and start to think about the weekend on Fridays," the release states. "They are looking to get in the weekend mood, and what better way than to have something special to do on their Friday lunch hours. And most are interested in gathering and eating more than anything else." Local restaurants will offer "express lunches" at café tables in the park. Initially the partnership will provide tables and chairs for 50 to 100 people. Names of businesses that will sell the express lunches will be released in the next couple of weeks, Chen said. At the park there alsowill be live entertainment and activities such as playing Frisbee, tossing a football and hula hooping.

Information from Tribune archives was used in this report. jpoltilove@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7691

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