Southside Fresh Market owners Ramona Brayboy and Judith Turner stand with Real Roots owner Kayda Kahail. “I like to protect the energy here,” Brayboy said. “I’m selective with my vendors and my space.” Photo by Abby Baker.
BY ABBY BAKER, The Gabber
ST. PETERSBURG — All summer, Southside Fresh Market’s collection of vendors have braved the heat on the grassy lot at 2184 9th Ave. S. While the market is still open, come October, it will move to a permanent spot on 22nd and 15th Avenue South that will house 30 small businesses daily in a sort of grassroots, outdoor grocery store.
The current market site belongs to the City of St. Petersburg, which plans to put a public pavilion in the space, prompting the growing market’s move to the historic “Deuces” neighborhood.
Since opening in April, Southside co-owners Ramona Brayboy and Judith Turner have worked to make the outdoor space a weekly place for fresh food, homemade products, and healthy choices – something that Brayboy says is missing from South St. Pete.
“It’s frustrating. It’s hard to go to the north side every time you want something fresh,” Brayboy said. “Everywhere you look, it’s fried food, burgers, minimarts. We want to make our community better.”
The new market will sit on Brayboy family property.
“I stayed up all night writing a grant for the market from the Pinellas Community Foundation,” Turner said. “We got so many ‘no’s…it was exciting to be so inspired and finally get a ‘yes.’”
The market just recently began accepting Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), which shoppers can exchange for Southside tokens and shop for products.
Recently, the market was nominated for the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce Good Burger Awards, defined as “a business, organization, or individual in greater St. Pete making a positive impact in our community,” by the commerce website.
“It’s an acknowledgment that we’re doing a good thing,” Brayboy said. “Something that I’m very honored by.”
Every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the once-empty space is full of smoking food, boxes of produce, and clamoring vendors – something that Brayboy and Turner are looking to expand in the fall.
There is talk of a community garden, a stage for events, a drive-by pickup area, classes, and a weekly Friday night art market.
“We’ve grown out of our space,” Brayboy said. “We want this to be a go-to spot, where anything you can find in a grocery store, you can find here, locally. And one day a week is not going to solve food insecurity in my community.”
Organizers promise more details to come. Follow Southside’s path to permanency at fb.com/southsidefreshmarket.