Downtown Marketplace: A Weekend Staple in Tallahassee

For some, downtown Tallahassee on a Saturday morning may conjure thoughts of empty tree-lined streets, church spires towering over oak trees greeting the rising sun, and abandoned government buildings.

But for others, Saturday at 9 a.m. means the opening of the Downtown Marketplace, where modern business meets the main street of yester-year.

In its 16th season, the Downtown Marketplace gives residents an alternative shopping option. Vendors selling everything from fresh-off-the-farm produce to abstract paintings, line the brick pathways of Ponce De Leon Park, a part of the Park Avenue Chain of Parks.

“Many municipalities have small, locally grown produce markets. So, with the help of the Downtown Improvement Authority, the Downtown Marketplace was formed,” said Allen Thompson, events coordinator for Tallahassee Downtown.

The Marketplace began in 1995 with just nine local farmers selling their crops and a few other vendors. It has since graduated into a mainstay event for Downtown Tallahassee. Thompson said he expects 54 vendors next Saturday.

“The marketplace has a tremendous impact. It’s like a little ‘main street.’ All of our vendors are independent business-people, who must be licensed and have a sales tax imposed on their products, with the exception of produce vendors,” Thompson said.

Florida does not collect taxes on produce.

“The taxes collected at this event, and others like it, have a significant impact on the local economy. Some of those taxes are discretionary, which the state of Florida pays back to the city and county,” said Thompson.

It’s not just local vendors that come to the Chain of Parks to reap the benefits of the bustling marketplace. Business-people from all over the state flock to Tallahassee from March to November, when the Downtown Marketplace is in full swing.

“The Downtown Marketplace is a great way for residents to get to know and see what local businesses are out there,” said vendor Amy Odeneal, who co-founded Dots and Damask Designs last September. “It’s also a great way for us to get our name out there, and drive traffic to our website,” Odeneal added.

Virginia “Ginger” Hartley, owner of Ginger’s Jams, Jellies and Such, comes to the marketplace once, annually, during Springtime Tallahassee to sell her 120 varieties of jams and jellies. “Each year that I’ve attended I’ve had repeat customers,” said Hartley, a third-year marketplace participant from Oviedo.

Tammy Harrell, also in her third-year at the marketplace, ventures from De Leon Springs in Volusia County to Tallahassee, solely to sell her “hand-made soaps and such” at the city’s springtime festival. “This is one event that I make a point to come to. It’s definitely worth the travel and my expense, obviously for the economic reasons,” said Harrell.

Aside from vendors selling food, arts and crafts, and other oddities, live music performances and craftsmen displays can also be found in the Marketplace. In conjunction with the Downtown Marketplace, events are also held in the Chain of Parks. Next Saturday, the Marketplace will host the 9th annual Haiku at Hai Noon Poetry Contest, in celebration of April being Poetry month.

The Downtown Marketplace is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., every Saturday from March to November. Interested vendors can visit, for more details.