Moving To Downtown Tampa: The Urban Market Scene

Drive or walk along Polk Street near Franklin Street in downtown Tampa and look for the bright red awning and shutters. The splash of color on a street of otherwise muted tones welcomes patrons to Duckweed Urban Market, a small beacon of what's to come as the neighborhood evolves into a bustling residential community in pursuit of all things that sustain life.

Michelle and Brent Deatherage established Duckweed in 2010 as residents of downtown Tampa recognizing a need. With a previous career in home improvements, Michelle Deatherage knew that opening Duckweed would be a neighborhood improvement.

The Deatherages named their market after the duckweed plant, a native species of Florida and the smallest flowering plant in the world. Because Duckweed is among the "smallest markets in the world and in Florida,'' the name seemed fitting.

Since then, Duckweed Urban Market has become the go-to spot (and sometimes savior) for anyone needing a carton of milk, a dozen eggs, a cup of yogurt, a loaf of bread, a roll of paper towels, and other basic as well as specialty items.

Some of the most popular products sold at the approximately 600-square-feet market? Whatever Pops, eggs from Orange Blossom Farms (in Oak Hill), Fiber Gourmet pasta (based in Miami), Sami's bakery items, Barn Cat honey (in Hernando County), Cafe Hey sandwiches and Buddy Brew coffee.

The customers enhance the charm of the market. One regular created a book about Duckweed and why it's her favorite market. The bulk (about 70 percent) of the customers are downtown residents (from nearby Element and SkyPoint), and the remaining are downtown workers, students, passersby, and patrons of Tampa Theatre, Kahwa Coffee and nearby hotels.

"Duckweed makes me wish I lived downtown, so I could visit more often,'' says downtown worker Jennifer Kopf. "It's the most complete little market, with a variety and the basics.''

Customers From Near And Far

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is a Duckweed customer; CNN newsman Anderson Cooper visited while on assignment in Tampa.

"We're really proud to be here, and are honored that our customers like what we're doing,'' says Michelle Deatherage.

What's next for Duckweed? A new, improved market four times the size of its current location. If all goes according to plan, the Deatherages will move Duckweed a few doors down to a larger location by mid-2013.

"We will have everything we have now, but double, including a beautiful selection of wine, craft beer, deli and gelato,'' says Deatherage.

Juliette Cassistre is a Boston area native who loves sunny Florida, fitness and health-conscious cooking and baking. She has been a freelance writer for several local publications, including a stint as a Food and Drink Website Editor. She earned her BA in Communications at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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