GULFPORT, Fla. — People in Gulfport are helping small businesses bounce back from a heartbreaking year. Mom and pop shops in the quaint waterfront town are dealing with the ongoing pandemic and damage from Tropical Storm Eta, which flooded downtown streets and businesses.
Now, Tuesday morning fresh market shoppers are on a mission. They’re working to keep the vendors and stores they know and love open and thriving.
Devon Shahade was one of many visiting the Gulfport market Tuesday. She was thrilled to find plenty of unique and handmade items, alongside plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and baked goods. “We’ve gotta help keep everybody up and afloat and we’re got to keep the community going,” she explained.
Vendors, like Guy Cote at Main-iacs Lobster, say they can’t believe the remarkable support they’re seeing from the community as we all work out the kinks of this troublesome year.
“It’s been vital. Literally vital for all of us,” he added. “Between the pandemic and the storm, it has all been really tough on all of us. Most people don’t have 10 months worth of salary put away in their bank to survive all this. Before the market reopened in September, I hadn’t worked at all since March.”
Yet, businesses are now on the rebound as Gulfport brings back the popular Tuesday Morning Market, First Friday and Third Saturday events. Businesses are calling the special events “an absolute lifeline.”
Janine Maggio owns Mildred Maloney Flowers. She says most of her business comes from weddings, which have primarily been canceled or rescheduled this year. Yet, on days of the market, she says sales are sometimes even higher than what businesses saw prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“On the days we don’t have the market we’re pretty slow, but people have been coming out to shop. They like that it’s outdoors and they can safely support all of us,” she explained.
Louise Shahade, of Seminole, says she is happy to do her part. “We have to be strong, help one another, and move forward from all of this,” she said with enthusiasm.
Here’s what you should know about upcoming Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market events:
They happen weekly year-round. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays. It features 60 vendors…plus dozens of downtown shops and restaurants. Parking is free along Beach Boulevard South.