I’m pleased to announce a new project Apalachicola Main Street is developing with downtown business owners and Florida A&M University’s business incubator program: the Bowery Market.

Launching in June, the new, open-air street market will be Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Bowery district of downtown Apalachicola.

Commerce Street between Avenues F and G will be blocked off to create a venue for up to 20 vendors offering various merchandise, services, and activities. We are seeking vendors who would like to sell items such as seasonal produce, art, crafts, plants, and more; food vendors are encouraged to apply. Service and activity vendors such as chair massage or face painting are also welcome. Each week, one spot will be available to local organizations for fundraising. The fee for vendors is $10.

The market will have several benefits including drawing locals and visitors downtown and expanding awareness of the Bowery District. It will provide a new weekday attraction. Open-air markets are strong economic drivers in downtowns and boost sales at nearby businesses. Studies show most market shoppers, up to 70 percent, also patronize nearby brick-and-mortar businesses on the same day. The festive sights and sounds provide a social gathering space and enhance a sense of place. The venue will also form a connection between the northern end of Water Street, the Bowery District, and the more heavily-travelled business district below Avenue E. Live music will showcase local talent.

The notion of a regularly occurring market in the Bowery was ignited during a Main Street focus group of Bowery District business owners. We were brainstorming ideas for a new promotional activity to draw people north of Avenue F. The district boasts quality, established businesses as well as great newer enterprises. However, it is not as well-known as other parts of downtown.

The market idea was met with unanimous approval. The ideas of business owners guided each stage of the development, allowing us to be attuned to their needs. Their feedback has been critical to designing the project so as to optimize how the market and existing businesses complement and benefit one another.

This project has also created a productive collaboration between Main Street and FAMU’s business incubator, which helps jump start new businesses. Director Falan Goff, who specializes in rural and economic development and provides mentoring to entrepreneurs, will be the market’s on-site coordinator. For individuals interested in starting a business, the venue will provide a weekly opportunity to refine products and branding as they grow a customer base.

The Bowery Market Committee includes three Apalachicola residents with experience participating in or developing similar markets: Sandi Garrett Little, Carol Guild, and Jody Rosenbaum; and Goff and Dreamel Worthen of FAMU Extension. We also received helpful advice from Holly and Creighton Brown, founders of the Apalachicola Farmers Market.

If you are interested in having a space, please visit www.apalachicolabowerymarket.com for more information or contact me directly.

Augusta West is executive director of Apalachicola Main Street, a non-profit organization dedicated to downtown economic development and historic preservation. She can be reached at awest@apalachicolamainstreet.org or (850) 274-1321. Main Street’s mailing address is 1 Avenue E, Apalachicola, FL 32320