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New Downtown Merchants Group Takes Shape

Members of Safety Harbor's newest merchants group rode the Jolley Trolley last week.
Members of Safety Harbor’s newest merchants group rode the Jolley Trolley last week.

Members of the most recently formed downtown Safety Harbor merchants association met again on Monday evening, and after their initial meeting a month ago, the direction and foundation of the organization has started to take shape.

The group, which has been spearheaded by Sandwich on Main owner Mercedes Ofalt, officially adopted a name — the Merchants of Safety Harbor, or MOSH — and selected four board members, and it came up with a number of goals it wants to accomplish, both short and long-term.

Number one on that list is to renew the City’s agreement with the Jolley Trolley. The latest contract is set to expire on September 31, and while figures show ridership is up, the cost of bringing the service to town is set to rise in a couple of years when a state grant runs out, meaning this year will be a pivotal period for the Safety Harbor-to-Dunedin transit service.

“When we first got the Jolley Trolley route it was like anything else, until you have it, you don’t know what questions to ask,” Tapping the Vine owner Howard Latham said after he and others members of the group took a ride on the big red trolley last week.

“We know more about it now, and with a more effective merchants group, we can get more things done,” he added. “It’s a valuable service, but we need to ask more questions, better questions, and see how it best works for us.”

City Manager Matt Spoor met with members of Safety Harbor's newest merchants association on Monday.
City Manager Matt Spoor met with members of the Merchants of Safety Harbor on Monday.

The group had a number of questions on the topic for City Manager Matt Spoor, who attended Monday’s meeting at Latham’s restaurant, namely, would trolley officials be willing to move the Dunedin stop.

“The stop isn’t in downtown Dunedin,” Nolan’s Pub owner Craig Davide said. “You can see it if you know it’s there, but if you don’t know about it, nobody downtown knows there’s another trolley that goes to Safety Harbor.”

“Wherever the other one (from the Clearwater Beach route) stops, this one should stop there, too.”

Another issue the group wants to see changed is the breakdown of the ridership numbers.

While reports show the overall ridership on the route rose, from 4,576 over the 2014 contract to 5,750 during the latest deal, the figures do not detail how many riders actually traveled the whole route to Safety Harbor.

The Safety Harbor Jolley Trolley is a main priority for the merchants group.
The Jolley Trolley is a main priority for the Merchants of Safety Harbor.

“I’d like to see who’s leaving and who’s coming back, the time they are getting on and where they are getting on at,” Davide said.

After some discussion on how often they would like to see the breakdown, the group settled on once a month to begin with.

Spoor said he would take the requests into a meeting he was having with trolley and PSTA officials later in the week, and after he left, the discussion turned to other ways to move the merchants group forward.

First was the election of four board members: Ofalt was named chairperson; Kip Kelly of Crooked Thumb Brewery was named vice-chair; Clyde Hutchings, Jr. of Edgewater on Main was named secretary; and Latham took the treasurer position. One position was left open, to be filled by a downtown restaurant owner.

Following the naming of the board, the group discussed its plans for the future.

Some ideas that were floated included bringing back the city’s popular grapefruit festival, reinvigorating the monthly Third Friday music series, and finding ways to raise awareness and drive people to downtown Safety Harbor.

Mercedes Ofalt speaks to a group of downtown Safety Harbor merchants on July 20.
Mercedes Ofalt speaks to a group of downtown Safety Harbor merchants on July 20.

After the meeting, Ofalt expressed her thoughts on the group’s future.

“I am very excited about the new board of directors forming and the direction we will be taking over the next few months,” Ofalt wrote Safety Harbor Connect. “We are seeing a huge shift in the mind-set of the town and merchants. There is a straight forward go get them attitude that I am all for.”

“We need to remain positive and continue to push forward in order to drive business and traffic to our downtown district, while still maintaining the city’s vision for its beauty and quaintness,” she added.”We are ambitious, but realistic. To loosely quote our city manager, we have a mountain to climb, but we will do so together one step at a time!”

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  1. I am extremely excited for all of the merchants. They all work so hard for the people in the community. We all need to support our local merchants to make them successful so that our town is successful. Way to go!

  2. Idea to bring more people to Safety Harbor. Fall Season
    have a contest with the merchants and local citizens to
    line the streets with Scarecrows, A Scarecrow Invasion!!(Main St and commercial area).
    The light poles or areas in front of stores and restaurants can decorate Scarecrows
    representing their locale. It would define the Autumn Season to Safety Harbor and hopefully
    visitors to see the colorful displace and uniqueness of our town. Contact local television stations
    for free press.

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