Renee Edwards’ Saturday Morning Shoppe has undergone a whirlwind of growth this year; in the first two months of operation, the market went from a small church parking lot to Tropicana Field.
A location in Tampa soon followed, and Edwards recently announced she was taking the market to the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds outside of Atlanta in December.
Edwards has shared even bigger news with the Catalyst – basketball legend, entrepreneur and business mogul Magic Johnson will be in St. Petersburg passing out Thanksgiving turkeys at the Nov. 1 Saturday Morning Shoppe.
Johnson’s career accolades are extensive. He is a five-time NBA champion, three-time NBA Most Valuable Player, and was an NBA All-Star for 12 out of 13 seasons – all with the Los Angeles Lakers. The achievements continued off the court as well. Johnson won five more NBA championships as co-owner of the Lakers, and in 2020 he also won a World Series Championship as co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Most important to the Saturday Morning Shoppe and the hundreds of vendors it showcases, Johnson is also a successful business mogul whose Magic Johnson Enterprises empire boasts a net worth of over a billion dollars.
Edwards called Johnson’s presence at the market an amazing opportunity for her vendors, not only for his celebrity status – but also his business acumen.
“Can you imagine how a vendor would feel with Magic Johnson holding one of their products and taking a picture,” Edwards asked rhetorically. “Could you imagine?”
“If he can give them even a snippet of what he thinks may help them or what they may need, it’ll be a phenomenal experience, to say the least.”
Johnson is a former minority-stake owner and current spokesperson for the Miami-based Simply Healthcare company. Simply Healthcare, which also has an office in Tampa, is one of Edwards’ sponsors. Edwards said it was a choice between Johnson attending an event in Ft. Lauderdale or St. Petersburg, and credited Councilwoman Deborah Figgs-Sanders for helping Edwards to “win the lottery.”
Edwards is quick to credit Figgs-Sanders and Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld for getting the Saturday Morning Shoppe to this point in the first place.
Held on the first Saturday of each month, the market made its debut April 3 at the Bethel Community Baptist Church. The response was overwhelming, and Edwards’ first event showcased 64 vendors – over double her goal of 20-30. By June, the number of vendors ballooned to 150.
“My feeling was a feeling of gratitude,” said Edwards. “Because you never know who’s watching and inspired or motivated by what you’re doing.”
Figgs-Sanders knew the Shoppe had quickly outgrown the church’s grounds, and driving by the vast, empty lots at Tropicana Field, the councilmember came up with an idea. Figgs-Sanders reached out to Auld, who promptly gave Edwards the space she needed for the market to thrive – free of charge.
“I was paying at the church,” said Edwards. “And he gave me Lots 1, 3, and 4 for free.”
Part of the reason for the Shoppe’s success lies in a simple concept that has become a mantra for Edwards – “everyone is included.” Edwards, who also runs the skincare line Skin Kandii, came up with the idea after struggling to participate in other area markets.
“Why I started the Saturday Morning Shoppe is because these markets wouldn’t allow me to sell my products,” said Edwards. “I was rejected so many times – that is the reason the Saturday Morning Shoppe was born.”
She said most of the markets were too exclusive, especially for those just starting a business. Tents had to be a certain size, entry fees were too high, and pictures of vendor booths needed approval. So, Edwards set out to create her own market for people that may have not been readily accepted by the others.
“The Saturday Morning Shoppe is unique because it is packed with diversity,” said Edwards. “The Saturday Morning Shoppe is unique because of the networking that is happening.”
Edwards is proud that two or three vendors now have their own brick-and-mortar locations, and she believes that number will continue to grow. A local restaurateur has also begun serving tea and juices from other vendors. Edwards makes it a point to state that her vendors’ success is her success, and to facilitate that growth, she has created the Saturday Morning Shoppe Academy.
The academy educates and teaches vendors how to take their business to the next level. “No other pop-up shops or anything else in our city offers an academy attached to it,” said Edwards.
The idea has caught fire, and publicity has followed. Not just local publicity, either, as the New York Times also reached out to Edwards for an interview Friday. At Thursday’s city council meeting, Figgs-Sanders presented Edwards with the Sunshine Ambassador Award for what she has brought to the community.
Edwards’ ultimate goal is to be on the Ellen show, not for herself, but because of Ellen DeGeneres’ love for small businesses, and what the exposure could do for her vendors. With what Edwards has accomplished in the last six months – including bringing Magic Johnson to town – her dream may yet become a reality.
To learn more about the Saturday Morning Shoppe, visit its website here.