The 17 vendors who are the inaugural tenants in the Marketplace were busy setting out merchandise on the shelves and tables of the stalls and tents they occupy at the entrance to the Pier, and crowds already were stopping to look over the goods.
“This is St. Pete’s market,” said a broadly smiling Dianna Bishop, proprietor of Hey Mon Caribbean Cooking Magic.
Although the 26-acre, $92 million Pier District opened Monday, Friday was opening day for the Marketplace, which is designed to represent the best of what the local small business community has to offer, said Stephanie Addis, director of retail services for Colliers International in Tampa Bay.
Colliers International’s Real Estate Management Services is handling overall management of the district, including retail, restaurant, Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center, public art installations and the family park. Colliers leasing experts, led by Addis, are managing the leasing for the district, including the open-air Marketplace.
“We had a pre-established set of categories we were interested in – arts and crafts, accessories, apparel, pre-packaged specialty food and some services,” Addis said. Colliers got 70 applications for 17 slots, which include seven market stalls and 10 pop-up tents.
“It really gives these small business owners a great opportunity. They’re at the front door of the Pier, right off of Bayshore and Beach Drive. This is a very robust retail area,” Addis said.
For some of the vendors, such as Yara Gary at Land of Gaia, the Marketplace is their first retail opportunity. Garay sells home décor, handcrafted jewelry and other international imports, and said she hasn’t seen the type of merchandise that she sells anywhere else in St. Petersburg. She plans to open a brick and mortar store in St. Pete on the heels of opening on the Pier.
Another Marketplace vendor, Jennifer Schultz, owns The Merchant with her husband Kevin. The Merchant has a physical presence in downtown St. Petersburg at 633 Central Av. and recently opened The Crislip Café. The Marketplace stall is an expansion of her business.
“We wanted to be able to bring the artists we represent down here and to have some custom things only available here,” Schultz said. “We’ve already added about four jobs between the Pier and the Café and some people will rotate between the two.”
Hey Mon Caribbean has a restaurant in Brandon, but “This is our baby,” Bishop said about the sauces, spices and beverages Hey Mon sells at The Marketplace.
“We make food we want to eat,” she said, citing products made with natural preservatives, and that vegans can enjoy because there are no meats or meat by-products.
“We’ve been doing a lot of arts and craft festivals, home shows, seafood festivals. A larger part of our income comes from retail of sauces and spices,” Bishop said. “I think it’s a beautiful thing they are doing here and we were excited to be a part of it.”
Although the Marketplace opened with 17 vendors, it can be expanded to up to 30 tenants, Chris Ballestra, director of enterprise facilities for the city of St. Petersburg, told the City Council Thursday. Right now, the Marketplace is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday only, but that could change as well, he said.
“I look forward to adding more vendors and if it’s working for them adding days of the week as well,” Ballestra said.
Reservations are required for the Pier attendance through Sunday. The tickets are free and available here. The city is limiting tickets to 10,000 a day to allow for social distancing. Starting Monday, tickets will not be required.