Capitalism in action at the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market

In a city where companies like Mother Kombucha make headlines for entering big box grocery stores and businesses are rated based on “bike-friendliness,” the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market, which resumes in October, reflects a notion that is central to the city’s business community: capitalism rewards value-based businesses committed to community action and corporate responsibility.

Nestled in a lot adjacent to the fine dining and high-end retailers of St. Petersburg’s Sundial, the Saturday Morning Market draws an anticipated 10,000 people each week. The eclectic assortment of vendors comprises the largest market in the Southeast, according to the Saturday Morning Market’s website.

The market has 170 approved vendors, stationed in the expansive lot, on any given Saturday. Street performers looking to launch their careers to an audience bewitched by the energy of grassroots commerce abound.

To date, more than 25 businesses have successfully used the market to springboard their business into something more substantial. This includes GateauOChocolat, a gluten free pastry kitchen on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg. Other market vendors who have notably expanded their reach and distribution are The Urban Canning Company and, the above mentioned, Mother Kombucha.

The vendors represent a vibrant, diverse and dynamic business community incubating in St. Petersburg. After all, in the United States more than 78 percent of small businesses are nonemployers — or self-employed businesses of one person only, according to the Small Business Administration.

A strong market economy helps nonemployer retailers who carry direct-to-consumer products have a platform to reach the local community without many operational expenses.

As a 501c3 nonprofit organization, the St Petersburg Saturday Morning Market takes its role in vendor development seriously. They offer coaching, self-assessment models and exclusivity to vendors who are qualified to exhibit. The organization has turned down more than 1,000 applicants since launching in 2002, according to the market’s website.

But market vendors are not the only ones focused on business growth and opportunity in St. Petersburg.

At the city’s State of the Union, an underlying theme was the importance of private businesses as strategic community partners to achieve long-term economic growth.

Dr. Martin Tadlock, regional chancellor at USF St Petersburg, spoke on the notion. He said the university will do its part to advance the city by remaining committed to creating a workforce of “creative thinking, problem-solving, innovative, talented people.”

If you go people watching at the market on a Saturday, that’s exactly who you will see. Lorrie McMurrian, a self-described “shopgirl” at the exhibiting company St.Pete Rocks, says “There’s a real sense of community when you get to know people from all walks of life.”

The market attracts people from a wide range of socio-economic positions, uniting for one common purpose — to participate in the local economy.

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, market vendors honored this spirit of inclusivity by partnering to accept SNAP benefits on hot foods. The market also leveraged a strategic community partnership with the Florida Organic Growers association to double SNAP benefits to recipients who visited and made a qualifying purchase during the month of October.

Diversity, partnerships and community-forward economic growth, means the market embodies the best qualities of capitalism. But it wouldn’t be an efficient marketplace without some foundational technology.

In 2018, a website was launched by the Morning Market, allowing shoppers to order their favorite market-fare online for pickup on Thursdays.

With highly-accessible technology completing the last piece of the puzzle, the economy of the Morning market is a microcosm of the city’s capitalist values of diversity, innovation, conscientiousness and mobility.

To witness the capitalism in action, visit the market at Al Lang Stadium parking lot, 101 1st St SE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 on Saturdays, between 9 am – 2 pm, starting in October. ♦

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