Manatee County takes over Coquina Beach Market

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BRADENTON BEACH – Manatee County officials have announced that the county tourism agency is taking over the Coquina Beach Market from longtime director Nancy Ambrose.

Manatee County Information Director Bill Logan sent an email to commissioners on Aug. 1 announcing the takeover, issuing a press release on Aug. 2 that the market would be “taking a break” until November.

“Artisans and other vendors will be back along the Coquina Beach South promenade, once again, when the 2022-23 season opens in November as oversight for the market shifts to Manatee County,” according to the press release.

“This is a county asset,” Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said in the release. “Bringing the market under the guidance and coordination of our Convention and Visitors Bureau will ensure it continues to engage some of our area’s premier artisans while allowing visitors outstanding buying opportunities.”

In a Facebook post on the Beach Market’s Facebook page, the organizer of the market for the past decade, Nancy Ambrose, expressed her disbelief.

Ambrose said that a letter from county purchasing official Jacob Erickson notified her that her franchise license agreement for use of the beach parking lot was terminated.

“I was completely shocked when I received the coldest termination without cause letter out of the blue yesterday,” Ambrose wrote. “I spent the day trying to figure it out and was so worried about the vendors. I contacted Jacob Erickson, the Purchasing Official that wrote the letter and he informed me he had no idea if the market would continue as he was just directed by the administration to write the termination letter.

“There was no thank you for your years of service, no good luck – just 30-day written notice of termination – that the agreement will terminate at 11:59 p.m. ET on Aug. 31, 2022. In an email Dr. Hopes references me as the prior contractor,” Ambrose’s post continued.

When The Sun asked Logan for a reason on Aug. 5 for Ambrose’s termination he replied by email, “I do not have any further information on why the contract was terminated – only that it was.”

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore responded to Logan’s announcement, emailing several county officials and others on Aug. 1.

“Don’t you think we have more pressing business than this?” she wrote, adding that Logan does not have the authority to “grow a department.”

“This does not draw tourism, it’s something local county and visitors of (the) island visit,” Whitmore wrote.

Ambrose said in a Facebook post that the county has never contributed funds to the beach market. Whitmore confirmed that no county funds have so far been contributed to the beach market with Manatee Clerk of the Circuit Court Angel Colonneso by email.