Holmes Beach street market idea triggers merchants' objections

chawes@bradenton.comOctober 14, 2011 

HOLMES BEACH -- Plans for a first-ever weekly street market in Holmes Beach may be nixed because of objections from some of the city’s “brick and mortar” businesses.

Letters of concern from several businesses convinced Mayor Rich Bohnenberger to put the issue before the Holmes Beach City Council at its Oct. 25 meeting.

But Nancy Ambrose, who had planned to kick off the new market Nov. 6, said Thursday she is now considering moving the market to another community.

“It’s heartbreaking to me, and I’m still kind of in shock,” said Ambrose, who had built the Bridge Street market in Bradenton Beach into a weekly success before moving her focus to Holmes Beach. “We were just trying to do something great for the community; the more events we can have on the island, the more people come from Sarasota and Bradenton because they know lots of things are going on.”

But Bohnenberger, who has final say over whether to approve the market’s permits, said he heard from several businesses who were concerned the market would generate competition from vendors rather than bolster existing businesses.

“I had always hoped we could attract a farmers market or something of that nature,” Bohnenberger said. “But that doesn’t seem to be easily done. I was kind of surprised we had reaction from the community.”

Ambrose said she began pursuing the idea of a Holmes Beach street market after she decided not to continue managing the Bridge Street market because of a proposed change in her contract. A Holmes Beach merchant asked her to start a Saturday farmers market there, Ambrose said.

But because of the higher legal standards required by a farmers market, which includes health department inspections, Ambrose instead began to pursue a vendors market that included craftspeople, artists, jewelers and apparel salespeople. Those she invited to participate included several who could no longer participate in the Bridge Street market, which had decided to limit itself to homegrown produce and handmade products.

Because most vendors are already booked with Saturday events, Ambrose began planning a Sunday event and chose the parking lot in front of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce on Gulf Drive.

She had recruited 35 vendors from throughout Southwest Florida, and her permit had been approved by Holmes Beach’s fire, police and public works department when she heard Thursday that the mayor was sending the issue to the city council because of objections from some Holmes Beach merchants.

“I am surprised because we would have brought a lot of business to downtown Holmes Beach,” said Ambrose, who lives in Holmes Beach and works for several businesses that are located there.

Ambrose’s plans had even passed the test of the Sunday Bridge Street market she helped grow. Jo Ann Meilner, president of the Bridge Street Merchants, said she’s confident the Bridge Street market will continue to thrive and may have even gained more attendance through a Holmes Beach market held at the same time.

“Do I see it as a threat? No,” Meilner said. “I see it as, ‘More power to you.’ I think we’re going to have enough activities and things going on, including original art, handmade crafts, and good music, that people will want to come to Bradenton Beach.”

But Nicole Heslop, co-owner of the Island Flea on Holmes Beach, questions the need for a street market in her city.

“We have all the resources we need here within our local markets,” said Heslop, one of several Holmes Beach merchants who contacted the mayor with concerns about Ambrose’s plans. “There’s really no reason to bring outside merchants into our business community.”

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Ambrose hadn’t yet decided whether she would be appearing before the Holmes Beach City Commission to lobby for her original idea, or whether she would be seeking another community home for her market. “Maybe we can do some good for another community,” she said.

Christine Hawes, Herald business writer, can be reached at (9410 745-7081.

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