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Belleair Bee
Belleair discontinues Friday market
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Photo by BRIAN GOFF
People browse through the Friday Fresh Market in Belleair back in April 2012. Now the market is no more.
BELLEAIR – It began as an experiment with hope, it ended as an experiment that failed, or at least didn’t live up to expectations.

The Friday Fresh Market in Belleair is no more. City officials made the decision to end the market recently and Commissioner Michael Wilkinson made it official in a brief announcement at a recent meeting of the Belleair Commission.

“At the meeting of the Parks and Rec Board we were informed that the market will be no more,” he said. “I’ll miss it; I thought it was a good thing.”

The issue apparently wasn’t whether or not the market was a good thing, but a good thing for whom?

Belleair’s Special Events coordinator Sara Borger, who had the idea for the market in the first place, said local residents weren’t using it enough.

“Several residents really loved it and a lot came once or twice, but it wasn’t enough,” she said. “It was mostly nonresidents coming in so our efforts, time and money would be better spent on something else.”

Borger said it was becoming obvious that the community was too small to support a market.

“The Parks and Rec department has to provide things that enhance our residents’ lives and we’re always looking for new things,” she said. “We thought this was a good idea and it was well received, but in the end we didn’t find that a lot of residents were consistently going through the market to make it worth the effort.”

The market began three years ago and was called Market on the Mall. It was staged in Hunter Memorial Park in the middle of town and was held every second Friday throughout the winter months. Last year, in an effort to boost community involvement, it was held every Friday and the name changed to Friday Fresh Market. It still wasn’t enough.

“There just wasn’t enough traffic from residents,” Borger said.

She said some of the vendors will no doubt be unhappy with the news of the closing. One of those is Hong Lee of Everlast Orchids in Spring Hill.

“That is not good news; we loved that market,” he said. “It was profitable for us and the whole set-up was nice. The customers were great. We go to other markets but we didn’t have anything on Fridays so that was perfect for us.”

Lee said his Belleair customers can find him regularly nearby.

“We do the downtown Clearwater market every Wednesday, and that’s just 5 minutes away from Belleair,” he said.

Susan Schiber of Indian Rocks Beach operates Enchanted Sunshine. She began selling her Australian oil of Eucalyptus just this year at the market and she said she is going to miss it.

“It was very enjoyable. It was a good market and people who came were very supportive and seemed to enjoy it as they shopped,” she said. “I would consider it a decent market with potential; it had the potential to become better I could see that.”

Schiber agreed many of her customers were from places other than Belleair.

“Many of the people were visitors to Belleair, perhaps staying with local residents or just passing through,” she said. “A lot of them came over from the beaches to do some shopping.”

Earlier this spring there was talk that the market was going to be moved from Hunter Memorial Park to the more visible location at the Belleview Biltmore Golf Club. Borger said the decision not to make the move was made in part because of the uncertain future of the market.

“First of all the big reason why we didn’t make the move was because there was no electricity at that site,” she said. “Most of our vendors needed electricity and it would have been too expensive to install it especially when it wasn’t really taking off. It made no sense to put in a lot of money.”

What then is next? Borger said something will arise to take the place of the market, although it won’t be another market.

“We always have new ideas for things,” she said. “I go to conferences and see what other places are doing. Right now nothing sticks out but there will be something, we’ve got some stuff up our sleeves but it will be nothing like a market.”
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