The ribbon is cut to officially open the new Clearwater Gateway Farmers Market. Helping to do it are, from left, Julie Scales of the Pinellas Community Foundation and Dunedin City Commissioner; Howard Warshauer, market manager; Senator Jack Latvala; Sandra Lyth, the CEO of the InterCultural Advocacy Institute; Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, and Odilon Mezquite of the Advocacy Institute.
CLEARWATER – Chances are, Clearwater resident Roz McCall wasn’t intending to buy a new cherry tomato plant when she left her house on Jan. 11, but when she got to the new Clearwater Saturday market she couldn’t resist.
“I have a beautiful screened-in porch so it will be a perfect place for me to keep this plant,” she said. “I’m happy with it and I’m happy with this new market. They should do this more often – it is awesome.”
The concept for the new market began last year, when Clearwater city officials decided to try to find something meaningful for the Gateway area of the city, along Cleveland Street east of Missouri. Because of the diverse cultural nature of the neighborhood, a farmers market was thought to be the ideal vehicle to showcase the products and crafts from the various ethnicities that make up the area. On Saturday, their efforts came to fruition.
The manager of the new market is Howard Warshauer. He was hired just over two months ago to pull it all together, and he says his biggest job was getting vendors.
“You find out how the vendors get their information, you find out where they are, and you go out and get them,” he said. “We’re going to start with 40 vendors and we will go from there as long as we can establish to them and others that something good is happening here.”
Back in the late ’90s, Warshauer was a city commissioner in West Palm Beach. After that, he worked in urban development and public space planning. He says that equipped him for running the Gateway Farmers Market.
“This is a public space, so the marketing, public relations and urban planning in my background all came together for this job,” he said.
By the accounts of the people participating in the market, Warshauer’s efforts have paid off. Barbara Soustek, at the Flying Pig Pickling booth paid particular tribute to the organizers.
“The staff here has been great,” she said. “This is different than other shows we’ve attended. We’ll be back for sure; we’ll see how it shakes out after that. Business has been okay.”
Marla Lenain, of Organic Living, the woman who sold the tomato plant to Roz McCall, was pleased with her early observations of the event.
“This is the first time and people don’t know it is here, so maybe the crowds could be better,” Lenain said. “But I’m optimistic. I’ll definitely be back.”
Customer Tricia Nowlan was upbeat with the whole affair.
“I’m loving it,” Nowlan said. “This is great for a Saturday morning. People are always looking for something fun to do on a Saturday.”
Then Nowlan left to find her husband and the $10 he was holding for her to make a purchase. She was at a booth manned by Denise Hutchins who makes fake cupcakes.
“People are disappointed to find out they aren‘t real,” Hutchins said. “But they make great decorations for the desk in your office.” If you don’t give in to temptation that is, the cupcakes looked real enough to be eaten. Hutchins said her perception of the market was that it is just fine.
“There are lots of people, for sure we’ll be back,” Hutchins said.
Clearwater already has one long-established farmers market every Wednesday. And just two weeks ago, a Friday evening, monthly market was begun, and now the Gateway market. Is it possible that the city will have too many markets? Not according to Warshauer.
“The farmer’s market industry is booming right now,” he said. “We’re friendly to each other here in Clearwater. I don’t see the growth of markets around here as competition. It is a rising tide, and more and more people want to come to markets, and more and more vendors are taking part. It is a growing pool.”
Warshauer points to the downtown market in St. Petersburg as the standard.
“St. Pete is successful because people go there to have a good time; there is theater, plenty of things to do for the kids, entertainment and so forth. We’d like to be as successful as St. Pete.”
So do Arte Rosebury and Dana Pettaway of Tampa. They operate a health and beauty booth at the market.
“When we heard about this, we wanted to come,” said Rosebury. “It is only going to get better. The crowds have already begun to pick up; we’re pleased with the turnout.”
Their customer, Beth Moore of Clearwater was just as hopeful.
“So far so good,” Moore said. “I’ll definitely come back, that’s for sure.”
A number of local businesses and Pinellas County departments, as well as the InterCultural Advocacy Center are sponsors of the market. Warshauer says with that type of support, there is little doubt in his mind that the Gateway Farmers Market will be successful.
“You are always wondering if anybody is going to come. I know that if people come and look they are going to want to come back, and they will spread the word,” Moore said. “I’m 95 percent confident that this is going to be great.”