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Santini Farmers Market to return to south end
December 20, 2017

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South-end islanders will once again be able buy fresh produce and other goods in Santini Marina Plaza.

Linda Miller with Shop Local Productions applied to the town to be able to host a farmers market every Tuesday from 8 a.m.to 1 p.m. in the parking lot, from Jan. 16 through April 30.

The application, received Dec. 5, stated the market would have space for up to 40 vendors.

The south end had a farmer's market for the past six years, however the original organizer of the market, Bonnie Roberts, died in the summer 2017.

Miller said during public comment that Al Durrett, owner of Fish-Tale Marina and manager of Santini Plaza, was focused on opening his restaurant this fall. However, Durrett and Miller coordinated to host the plaza's annual holiday art event, and Miller said as she was setting up the event, pedestrians and tenants would stop to ask if the farmers market was coming back. Miller told Durrett about these comments.

"Al asked us to talk to the tenants and see if there was interest. A majority of them said they missed the market, and they've had a slow fall," Miller said. "So Al said, let's do it."

Miller also organizes the mid-island market at Beach Baptist Church, held Wednesdays.

Town Council ultimately approved the application for the market, but not without dissent.

Jean Baer, co-owner of Fort Myers Beach's newest farmer's market, spoke up in protest of the application.

Sanibel residents Baer and Betsey Ventura own Local Roots, a farmers market management company, and launched their newest market on Fort Myers Beach in November. The market is held Tuesdays from 8 a.m.to noon in the Nervous Nellies parking lot on Old San Carlos Boulevard and has around 30 vendors participating.

Baer was in communication with Roberts prior to her passing, and Roberts had specifically contacted Baer to suggest bringing Local Roots to Fort Myers Beach, according to Baer. Roberts wanted to help her south-end vendors find a new home, Baer said.

It was Baer and Ventura's understanding that the Santini market was done - and quite a few of its vendors went to Local Roots.

"We're surprised to hear Al wanted to bring it back," she said. "We started out very slow. Let's let these 30 small businesses succeed now and reconsider (Santini) in a year."

Baer said she was concerned the 7-mile island couldn't support three competing markets, especially two on the same day.

"Two markets on the beach is enough," she said.

However, council members didn't share Baer's concern.

"With traffic in season, no one is going to spend three hours to go north to get to a farmer's market," Council Member Bruce Butcher, a south-end resident, said. "Having one on the south end won't effect the others."

Council Member Anita Cereceda echoed Butcher's opinion that another market serving the south end would have minimal impact on the mid-island or north-island markets.

Cereceda opened her newest shop, The Islander, in early December, her first time running a business on the southern end of the island. She said she's talked to many residents now in the south, and they say they don't travel north.

"The island has distinct neighborhoods. The north end, mid-island and south end is a whole different life," she said. "I would guess 90 percent of the people tell me 'we never go to Times Square.' The south end is very different even than mid-island, were we go both ways."

Miller isn't worried that the three markets, two on Tuesday, will be too competitive for the same reason: the island's distinct neighborhoods.

"People on the south end will never go to the north end. It's a different vibe, and they don't want to fight traffic," Miller said.

As for the vendors, Miller doesn't want to have the same vendors as either her own market at Beach Baptist or as Local Roots. The Santini market needs to be its own, unique from the others. And, the vendors can come or go to different markets as they choose - it just depends on where they think they'll make more money, she said.

Several vendors of Beach Baptist's Wednesday market also set up shop at Local Roots on Tuesday.

"Al wants a unique market, I want a unique market, it doesn't serve the island to have three markets that are identical," Miller said. "(Santini) will try to have something really unique, artsy and upscale."

The first market at Santini Plaza will be Jan. 16.

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