Earlier this week, I stopped by the Tampa Street Market to talk with owner Amy Haynie. The Tampa Street Market, located in Seminole Heights, sells eco-friendly furniture and other green products. The furniture is mostly built by her husband, Charles, with both owners contributing to the design process. You can check out some photos from the store here.
On the eco-friendly furniture sold at the Tampa Street Market:
“If you look at green furniture out there right now, you cannot find anything that’s affordable furniture. And that was one of our premises, especially coming into Tampa and knowing that Tampa doesn’t have a (green) following. We, as the middle class, can’t go out and afford to buy eco-friendly furniture. It’s mainly for the rich. I mean a 10,000 dollar table, it’s beautiful but you can’t afford that. So that’s what we try to do, create eco-friendly furniture for the masses. And it’s easy. It’s actually really easy to do and to find the alternatives to doing things.”
“We price our furniture based on where you find a comparable thing. We look up dressers, at say Target, and the thing is, their furniture is not eco-friendly, its mainly particle board and you can’t buy a dresser there for 200 bucks. We sell all wood dressers for the same price and its all either recycled or brand new. Tables, you can’t find eco-friendly tables out there and we sell some for 400 dollars. That’s the big thing, that’s how we started. We try to make everything affordable, and this economy right now, its even harder for green businesses. To find green products alone, its difficult. And green products are more expensive. There’s no question but we carry the lowest end of the products out there for eco-friendly.”
On where they find the materials to build the furniture:
“We use a lot of steel, make the bases out of steel, we also make wood bases as well. But steel again is made up of a lot of, it depends on the steel but a lot of it is made up of recycled steel so it’s melted down and made into new steel and new steel is 100 percent recycleable. You can take steel and melt it down and its very sustainable in that way. And then we get salvaged wood. We make a lot with salvaged wood, we get it from all different places, river salvage cypress, we get a lot of casts off from cypress companies that take down big fields of cypress and pick out what they want and leave the rest. We hate that so we try to use that wood at least and make it into something. ”
“All of our furniture, we like it to be simple designed and simply done so that when its usefulness for you for the time, it can easily be changed or warped into something else. So we are trying to make sustainable furniture. And we use a lot of old materials too, like we take an old crib and make it into a day bed, just by tweaking it a little bit. Old things we revamp and try to modernize them and make them into new things.”
What makes a green business green?
“It’s hard to say what the definition of a green business is. There are a lot of green designations out there these days with corporations and whatnot and it’s a lot harder to turn a business into that. It’s very difficult. And again, its hard to put into words because with each business, just doing the little things to try to make a difference, and using that as a stepping ladder effect to do that. We go overboard, the only thing we carry are eco-friendly products and fair trade as well.”
“We are a green business just because, what we do is very environmentally friendly… We try to get as much local as we can; locally produced, non-shipped products. All of our art is local, and a lot of jewelry is local, a lot of our cards are local now too. And dealing with people that only deal in recycled products. So, really being conscious about each and everything that we do in our business. Each product that we make, with each product that we buy we want to make sure it is environmentally conscious and making sure its making a good impact instead of a negative impact. ”
“We are definitely a green business. Wholeheartedly, we sell green products. But I would say half of a one percent of our customer base is actually just going to buy something because its green. We are definitely a minority. It has to interesting, it has to be unique and the added bonus is that it’s green. That’s how you have to make your business.”
What are you thoughts on the general “greenness” of Tampa Bay?
“Comparative wise to other cities in the country, we are way behind. I mean, we are extremely far behind. We are a major city that doesn’t have mass transit and it’s really holding us back. I think we are really behind. There are definitely a core of people here who love it, and are very pro but, Tampa is not very progressive.”
“One thing I don’t like about Tampa is there is a lot of competition. And in reality, what needs to happen is to come together and green businesses and green-minded people get together and find a way to market themselves together. Because, especially being small businesses, there is no way to compete with anyone. Our biggest thing is advertisement, its all word of mouth.”
On buying green products:
“This is what I tell everyone when they come in. You don;t have to spend any money to go and do something that is not only green and good for the environment, but its green and healthy for you. It’s a lot healthier. And it’s the same product. You’re still going to buy candles somewhere and you might spend a little bit more but a lot of times your going to get more. What you get in return far outweighs what you are saving. And this green-washing, which all these companies do, saying they have green products, Walmart is a component of that, saying they have green products or making you think they have green products when in reality, its not. And its brainwashing, green-washing. It’s really trying to educate the public on what really is green and eco-friendly and why.”
On doing the “little things”:
“Get new light bulbs, stop using grocery bags. Stop using plastic bags anywhere you go. But if you take that to mind, you really will start to save. Stop using water bottles, plastic water bottles. I mean, these are things that aren’t going to cost you any money.
Buy a stainless steel water bottle and get water jugs and fill them up. The amount of plastic that we use for that, it’s incredible.”
“Another thing that’s easy and it will save you money, stop using crazy cleaners for everything. Use lemon, use baking soda and vinegar. It will clean your house better, you don’t have the toxic fumes. Borax cleans just about everything and its 10 times cheaper than anything you are going to buy and it lasts forever.”
You can check out some photos from the store here.