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Street Market tied to CRA’s vision of thriving downtown

By Staff | Nov 10, 2008

If Cape Coral truly is a “wasteland,” as proclaimed by a recent Reuters article that received national attention, then the Community Redevelopment Agency’s Executive Director John Jacobsen cannot see it.

Standing in the middle of Vincennes Avenue Saturday, just north of Southeast 47th Terrace, he watched a myriad of people milling about; up and down the street they strolled, shopping, chatting and reconnecting with old friends, new neighbors and the occasional dog that dutifully followed its master’s lead with head held high, tail wagging.

“What that article did was galvanize us as a community,” Jacobsen said. “After all, we can call ourselves that, but don’t you dare call us a wasteland.”

The CRA’s first Street Market of the season unfolded in the middle of downtown Cape Coral Saturday morning, drawing people to its unique blend of antiques, original artwork, hand-crafted items and upscale collector’s pieces.

It also drew Jacobsen’s pride for the sometimes struggling downtown corridor, which saw heavy foot traffic from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. with the Street Market and Farmer’s Market pulling residents out into the warm November sunshine.

According to Jacobsen, these kind of events are crucial for the CRA and the community as a whole, which are trying to develop, or even modify, a culture that might not have existed a decade ago.

“We’re trying to develop a culture of ‘yes,'” Jacobsen said. “The culture is changing. Six years ago we couldn’t do this, but city staff has been working with the community to help make these events happen.”

A majority of the vendors represented Cape-based businesses, from Lou and Anita Simmons’ Cape Coral Dog Bakery, to the jazz-infused casual dining of Wayne and Valerie Elam’s Brew Babies cafe.

Valerie Elam did swift business Saturday morning, selling pastries, breakfast sandwiches and coffee, all part of the cafe’s extensive menu.

“This is unbelievable,” she said of the Street Market. “I think it’s a great networking opportunity. I’d recommend this to anyone. Its a great chance to meet people and potential customers.”

Like most vendors, the Elams said they welcome and look forward to the next Street Market in December, as well as the innumerable Street Markets of the future.

They wanted to be part of the market’s “eclectic melting pot,” as did Jan Malano, who grew up in Cape Coral and returned to Southwest Florida after 23 years in Los Angeles.

“I used to ride the bus with this one right here,” Malono said laughingly, putting her arm around the CRA’s marketing director, Helen Ramey.

Malono was drawn to sell her goods — a handcrafted style she calls “nostalgic art” — at the Street Market because of its European feel.

“Every other market (in Southwest Florida) is a flea market, and I didn’t want to sell my art next to a guy selling tube socks,” she said. “This is much more upscale.”

Ramey was pleased with the first Street Market of the season. Like Jacobsen, she held court over the vendors and shoppers with a watchful eye, chatting with people who had a bag of vegetables from the Farmer’s Market in one hand, and a valuable collector’s item from the Street Market in the other.

Also like Jacobsen, she sees the Street Market as a valuable, if not necessary, commodity, as part of the shifting tides of Cape Coral’s fortunes.

“In these challenging times we need innovative solutions … solutions being the key word,” she said.