One year on, Safety Harbor’s Market on Main going strong

Safety Harbor’s Market on Main recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, and the weekly Sunday downtown market is going strong, thanks a wide selection of vendors and a variety of fun, specially-themed events.

Safety Harbor’s Market on Main recently passed the pivotal one-year milestone, a mark that highlights the quality of the weekly event as well as the resilience of its leadership and vendors.

Started by the Merchants of Safety Harbor (MOSH) organization in April 2016, the market has undergone several changes in the past year, most notably the departure of co-founder and manager, Brandon Ahlgren, who moved his business out of town last year.

Yet despite the many obstacles facing similar markets today, from consistent vendor participation to selecting the ideal mix of goods, Safety Harbor’s Market on Main, which is held on Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. throughout the year, has not only survived but is thriving, according to market manager and MOSH chair, Mercedes Locke.

“Safety Harbor’s Market on Main is growing,” Locke said around the time of the market’s one-year anniversary in early April.

Mercedes Locke.

“I have a waiting list of vendors and we’re getting new food and pet-friendly vendors all the time, and we’re getting huge support from the community. People are excited. There’s been a lot of positive feedback.”

The positivity stems not only from the varied selection of vendors, which includes everything from homemade soaps and honey to produce, fresh baked goods and full body massages, but from the many ways Safety Harbor’s market varies from the typical fresh market.

The most obvious example is the day of the week the market takes place—Sunday—which has long been considered kryptonite to markets, yet has been embraced in Safety Harbor.

“We pushed for this on Sunday a year ago,” Mary Kay Oney, co-owner of Sweet Ida Mae’s Bakery, said.

Mary Kay Oney of Sweet Ida Mae’s Bakery talks to a patron at Safety Harbor’s Market on Main in February 2017.

“Sundays typically don’t have markets, so this was a good niche. Also, it was very quiet in town on Sunday, but now it’s busy on Sunday. So we really needed this.”

After observing attendance trends from the first year, Locke also decided to keep the market open all year long, forgoing the break markets traditionally take during the hottest months.

“We’re not going to take a break,” she said. “We’re going to maintain our weekly schedule through the summer.”

“I feel like we did lose momentum by closing last summer,” Locke added. “If we stay weekly, we might not have as many vendors, but I don’t want to lose the momentum. We want people to know they can grab produce or bread or a gift every Sunday downtown. A lot of people say they miss us when we’re not here. So that’s a good sign!”

In addition to unique offerings like rock painting, children’s art classes, a student-run market and yoga lessons, Safety Harbor’s Market on Main often features special themes, including a celebration of the city’s centennial birthday, Mothers and Father’s Day, and this Memorial Day weekend, a town-wide bicycle scavenger hunt, that help draw people in.

“We might do something really fun in July,” Locke teased with a smile. “Something to do with hot dogs!”

Kids enjoy a musical performance at Safety Harbor’s Market on Main earlier this year.

After strolling through Safety Harbor’s market on a lazy spring Sunday, it’s easy to understand the draw of the event.

Situated in the center of downtown, with the gorgeous John Wilson Park and Gazebo as a backdrop, one can get lost in the surroundings, soaking up the delicious smells and pleasant sounds that tend to envelop fresh markets.

A.J. DuBuois of Clearwater.

“It’s nice,” A.J. Dubois of Clearwater said as he grabbed a dish of strawberry shortcake from Oney’s stand. “I’ve never been to this (market) before. This one is a little more user friendly.”

“Safety Harbor is a nice little town,” he added.

“It’s beautiful, and the market fits perfectly in this town.”

Locke and Oney concurred.

“There’s just something about a Sunday market at the Gazebo that people love,” Locke pointed out.

“The heart of every city is a good market,” Oney said, adding, “We need to work together and make sure this one keeps up.”

Enjoy this gallery of colorful sights from Safety Harbor’s Market on Main:

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