Black businesses thrive at Saturday Morning Shoppe

Renee Edwards’ Saturday Morning Shoppe has experienced explosive growth and a surge in popularity since its inception, going from a church’s grounds to Tropicana Field and a new location coming in August.

BY MARK PARKER, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Renee Edwards’ Saturday Morning Shoppe has experienced explosive growth and a surge in popularity since its inception, going from a church’s grounds to Tropicana Field and a new location in Tampa in just over two months.

Held on the first Saturday morning of the month, the market debuted on April 3 at the Bethel Community Baptist Church. The response was overwhelming.

Edwards’ original goal was to have just 20-30 vendors, and her very first event showcased 64. She upped her goal for May to 50 vendors, and the final tally was 91.

Due to the growing enthusiasm, she doubled her goal to 100 for June, and its number reached 150. When the entrepreneur first came up with the notion, she had no idea that the reaction would be so strong.

“It’s been phenomenal,” exclaimed said. “And I’m getting a bunch of responses basically saying, ‘This is what St. Pete needed.’”

What sets the Saturday Morning Shoppe apart from the many other markets in the area is that it is accessible to everyone. Edwards – who also runs the skincare line Skin Kandii and Tampa Bay Launderers, in addition to her full-time job – came up with the idea after her struggles to participate in other markets. Clearly, she was not the only one.

“If you want to go to [some] markets that has all these rules – your tent has to be this, and you need to spend that, or you have to send them vendor booth pictures for approval before they even let you try to be there – but what if it’s your first time and you don’t have pictures,” asked Edwards. “You’re welcome at the Saturday Morning Shoppe.”

“What if you’re trying to make a hobby a business and you need to see if it sells; if it works? You’re welcome at the Saturday Morning Shoppe.”

Edwards also wants people to know that her market welcomes people of all races. While most vendors are African American, she said that “a good 20 percent are white,” and many have been with her every month since the beginning. There are also Hispanic and Asian vendors, creating diverse offerings to match the increasingly diverse crowds at the Tropicana Field site.

Expanding to the Trop would not have been possible without Councilwoman Deborah Figgs-Sanders and the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Figgs-Sanders would drive by the vast, empty lots and think about how the Saturday Morning Shoppe had outgrown the church. She reached out to Rays’ President Brian Auld, and now the Shoppe has room to expand further.

“He gave us Lots 1, 3, and 4 for no charge,” said Edwards. “So that was super cool.”

The market is held in Lot 4, customer parking is in Lot 3, and overflow parking is in Lot 1. The market, open from 10-4 p.m., now receives a lot of downtown traffic and cyclists from the nearby Pinellas Trail.

“If you could pay $65 and make $500, why wouldn’t you,” Edwards asked. “And you have 7,000 people walking around.”

Edwards said that a vendor called her after the first market at the Trop and told her that she made over $3,000. Vendors hail from the entirety of the Bay area, and one even makes the trip from Atlanta. Not even the dreaded Howard Frankland Bridge could get in the way of the Shoppe’s growth, as Edwards has started a sister market in Tampa.

August 14 will mark the first Saturday Morning Shoppe in Tampa, held at the historic Perry Harvey Park near downtown. The park features sculptures, timeline pavers, and a history walk to tell Black stories from the area.

This market will run on the second Saturday of each month and will host the St. Pete market when the Rays have home games. The St. Pete market will return the favor when Perry Harvey Park cannot host.

“Why would someone limit a small business to St. Pete or Tampa and not be a Tampa Bay small business,” asked Edwards. “You can only win from the exposure.”

Edwards’ goal has always been to have three markets. St. Petersburg and Tampa were always part of the plan, and next up is Chicago. Edwards’ spouse lives there, and she hopes to retire there eventually.

Having three markets also carries a special meaning for Edwards.

“I have three children,” said Edwards. “The goal is for me to leave a legacy and to ensure that they never have to work for anyone again.”

“I’ve been a single mom most of my life, and my goal is that I don’t leave them hearing the same things I had to hear.”

The Saturday Morning Shoppe is held the first Saturday of the month at the Trop, First Avenue South, and 17th Street in St. Petersburg. Tampa’s market is held on the second Saturday of every month at 1000 East Harrison Street.

Vendors can personally speak to Renee Edwards at 727-225-6261 or go to https://facebook.com/satmornshoppe.

To reach Mark Parker, email mparker@theweeklychallenger.com

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