As its name implies, the EDGE District of bustling St. Petersburg is often on the cutting edge of shopping, dining and cultural experiences. Committed to preserving the district’s eclectic personality, the EDGE Business District Association launched the Edge Collective Urban Marketplace in February, 2021. Their vision was to create a space to incubate local entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses. Now nine months later and working with 305 Hospitality, the Marketplace has exceeded its lofty goal of giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to grow their brand to new heights in record time, helping small vendors develop from vendors in the market to larger brick and mortar stores.
Nicholas Pantuliano, Chief Development Officer and Chief Operations Officer of PTM Partners, explains, “The goal of the EDGE Marketplace was to activate a 1.2 acre parking lot during the pandemic, in what is typically a very busy district. We wanted to have the ability to provide affordable spaces in a high-profile location with a safer outdoor environment for entrepreneurs at a time when it was very difficult to start or maintain any business. We continue to be surprised and proud at how well it has been received and how it has allowed vendors to achieve bigger, better things.”
He adds, “The keys to accomplishing this in our opinion are to have a clear, simple vision and most importantly, have very strong partners on all fronts with strong communication. We would not have been able to do this without the relationships we have developed with our operators, vendors and most important, support from the neighborhood and the EDGE Neighborhood Association. The EDGE Neighborhood Association has been a great ally for us from day one and we value their input on everything we try to do – it’s vital to have that type of communication and partnership.”
Rooted in a rich history of pioneering and industry, the district features restored buildings, landscaped corridors with majestic palms, public art, eclectic shopping, dining and cultural experiences. A variety of galleries and shops include Ashe Couture Boutique, featuring dresses, accessories and jewelry, while ARTicles is an art gallery and custom framing shop.
Leslie Curran, Owner/President of ARTicles and VP EDGE Board of Directors, says, “One advantage of having a small business in the EDGE is the fact that there is a strong volunteer Board that is committed to the improvement of the District. This board consists of property owners, business owners, and residents who follow the guidelines of the Florida Main Street program which focuses on the historical character of the district while creating an updated, vibrant area. It is a huge help as a small business to have the support and insight of this group. The EDGE has a collection of eclectic, independent business owners and employees who are both creative and energetic. The goal is to continue the character of the district while inviting independent, small businesses to join in the growth. This is done through continual review and updating of our Master Plan for the EDGE, and making certain that we are prepared for the growth of both residential and business while keeping with the vibe that the EDGE has to offer.”
Visitors to the district can discover a wide variety of dining options, ranging from gourmet pizza to Latin cuisine that packs a big flavor. Bavaro’s opened its doors as the first traditional Neapolitan Pizzeria in the state of Florida and now boasts several locations. Bodega’s casual and tropical space features cafe tables facing the order window and covered open–air dining space in the back.
When the sun goes down, the action picks up throughout the District as Enigma Bar & Lounge offers music and comedy shows, while Zubrick Magic Theatre, created by Illusionists Chris and Ryan Zubrick, provides grand-scale illusions in a 70-minute performance that never fails to leave audiences awestruck.
Small business owners throughout the District reap many advantages. Ashlea O’Connor, owner of Baked in the Burg, a haven for those with a sweet tooth, says, “Being a part of the marketplace helped us grow our business by introducing our company to the local market in St. Petersburg.” For information on available spaces, building and permits, grants and bartering options check out the District’s webpage.
Pantuliano concludes, “We also learned that it is so important for successful main street corridors to have all shapes and sizes for healthy, varied business development. Providing structured, entry level retail and food and beverage venues in bustling main streets (like Central Avenue in Saint Pete) gives “the little guy” an opportunity to gain a foothold with a concept, eventually moving up into a larger space, in turn, opening the opportunity for a new small business to fall in behind them. This is what we wanted to contribute to in Saint Pete. It’s an amazing neighborhood that we have been fortunate enough to work in, helping small businesses in any small ways we can.”