Tuesdays are special in Gulfport. Every Tuesday year round the Historic Waterfront District plays host to the popular Fresh Market. There are usually at least 80 vendors with unique items to sell. Many are homemade and some artists create works right on the spot.
The Market was established in February 2006 by the Gulfport Merchants Association and has grown from a small handful of vendors on one block of scenic Beach Boulevard to today where it spans virtually the entire length of the historic district. Customer traffic has also steadily increased over the years, and the Market now routinely has several hundred visitors on a typical day, numbering up to 3,000 visitors on high season days. Last year the Merchants Association merged with the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce to form the Gulfport Merchants Chamber who currently runs the market.
A Labor of Love
There are two dedicated women who make the magic happen every Tuesday…Susan Blankenship and Marsha Warner. Both describe their involvement as a labor of love. Warner has been part of the production team virtually from the market’s inception nearly 15 years ago. Blankenship came to Gulfport in 2012 from Dunedin and has served as the Market’s manager since 2014. Warner serves as assistant manager. The chemistry between them is apparent and makes the market even more successful.
“The market is a real love of mine,” said Warner. “It adds a lot of value to this community which I love as well. Plus, we are really close to the vendors and we add a personal touch that you may not find at other markets. We often say we are family.”
Blankenship agrees. “It’s wonderful that I get to do what I really love. The coolest part about this position for me is that what I do creates a job and income for other people. That’s really rewarding,” she said.
Interesting, Unique Vendors
As you stroll through the market you’ll find all sorts of interesting and unique offerings. Here is a short sampling of what you may discover.
The Avocado Project run by Dimitra Ristras is fascinating . As a cancer survivor herself Ristras donates a dollar from each sale to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. In addition to big selection of avocado soaps, lotions and creams and other products, Ristras makes unusual jewelry for both women and men out of avocado pits.
Most unusual is that all the avocados come from just two large trees in Ristras’ Gulfport yard. The biggest and first of the two trees was planted by her father shortly after 9/11. She lost her father to cancer in 2009 and inherited the house where to trees are located. She notes that she uses no pesticide and no fertilizers “other than good old Florida sunshine.”
You can find out more about the Avocado Project and order products by visiting www.etsy.com/shop/AvocadoTreeProject.
Gluten Free Desserts
Further up the street are a couple of guys who are making scrumptious gluten free desserts. Lackford and Douglas Rumage are relatively new to the Market, bringing their wares to it the first time just last October. Both say they love the Gulfport vibe and that the meeting such a wide diversity of attenders has been been one of their most favorite things.
“I think we’re probably one of the only places where people can find delicious gluten free desserts,” said Lackford. “We started baking because we couldn’t find these kind of treats anywhere. We started with Internet sales but we couldn’t be happier with our success here on Tuesdays.”
Douglas noted that people can even special order items, including cakes, and pick them up at their booth.
Visit www.mygd2s.comto learn more.
Then there’s a talented artist who has been selling his paintings at the Market for over five years. Roger Asselin describes himself as a self taught painter. He explains that is why his styles varying so much from piece to piece.
“I’ve always had the same spot right across from the Gulfport Welcome Center so people have gotten used to where to find me,” said Asselin. “One thing I really like is to be able to encourage young people to pursue their creativity and I have been known to give away a piece of art to a young person to help them think about what they could create.
Asselin’s artwork can be found by visiting rogerasselinart.com
The Market strives to give back to the community as well. A food and personal needs collection basket for the Gulfport Senior Center Pantry is located at the Merchants Chamber tent each week. Space is offered free of charge each week to non-profit groups to raise funds and awareness for their causes.
Hours, Parking, and Info
The Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market is open rain or shine 9 am to 3 pm January to April and 9 am to 2 pm May through December. There is a clothing swamp every second Tuesday from 9 am to 1 pm. There is free parking all along Beach Boulevard. For more information including how to become a vendor visit http://gulfporttuesdayfreshmarket.com/