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Sunday, September 19, 2021

4th Avenue Food Park Juneteenth celebration highlights Black-owned businesses

The event featured a number of regional vendors to commemorate the new national holiday

Salem Commander brought her homemade candles to 4th Ave Foodpark's Juneteenth celebration on June 19, 2021. Commander makes the candles herself and sells them at local markets.
Salem Commander brought her homemade candles to 4th Ave Foodpark's Juneteenth celebration on June 19, 2021. Commander makes the candles herself and sells them at local markets.

The greenhouse behind Martine Delbrin’s Ocala home is crammed with greenery of all shapes and sizes. From succulents no bigger than a fist to potted plants large enough to fit on a dinner plate. She grows them all herself.

Delbrine, founder of Rooted By Martine, her plant and home décor business, was one of five vendors at 4th Ave Food Park’s Juneteenth celebration, held June 19.  The park’s Instagram post described it as a day of “restoration, recognition and celebration.” The event, featuring live music and cuisine from the surrounding restaurants and food trucks, spotlighted several Black-owned businesses in and around the Gainesville region.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers rode into Galveston, Texas and announced the Civil War officially ended and the enslaved were free. Recently declared a national holiday, Juneteenth was celebrated across the country with various parades, festivals and more.

In Gainesville, Juneteenth was recognized through a number of city-wide initiatives during and leading up to the date. The celebration at 4th Avenue Food Park drew about 100 people from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., where attendees browsed products from vendors and listened to live performances from local musicians Quincy Allen Flint and Austin Brockner.

An introvert by nature, Delbrin said the opportunity to participate in these market-style gatherings boosted both her confidence and her sales. The chance to vend on Juneteenth, she said, was especially important — not just regarding her business, but regarding her identity.

“As a Black woman, as a mom, I feel like we need the representation,” she said. “It’s deeper than just having a Black-owned business.”

The importance of the day wasn’t lost on attendees. Nicole Villanueva, a local camp counselor, said she was drawn to the event for its recognition of Juneteenth.

“Even if you’re not actively participating, it sends a message that you’re here in this space on this day, because it does have a lot of significance,” Villanueva said.

Supporting the vendors, she said, was another factor contributing to her attendance — a sentiment spreading more and more across the community. Participation from guests like Villanueva is something events across Gainesville, such as the Juneteenth celebration, have fostered in their promotion of local businesses

Delbrin said she owes her success to events like these, where vendors are invited to showcase their products to the public. Slowly becoming a community staple, pop-ups provide local businesses the opportunity to reach a larger audience — people they’d never connect with if they were limited to just their online or in-store customers.

Rooted By Martine was joined by Earrings by Tomi, Kenol’s Closet, Living Display and Cinderwitch Workshop, all Black-owned businesses. 

Salem Commander, founder of the Gainesville-based Cinderwitch Workshop, said she’s seen similar success from pop-ups. Launching her candle-making business in October of 2020, Commander’s been steadily attending the markets ever since.  

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Echoing Delbrin’s feelings, Commander said the opportunity to attend has benefited her personally and professionally.

“The chance to get out and meet-and-greet with the wider community just makes me feel so fuzzy inside,” Commander said.

The Juneteenth celebration highlighted the wide range of Black-owned businesses in the Gainesville area. With everything from vintage clothes to custom art to homemade candles, Saturday’s attendees had the opportunity to purchase a variety of products from the present vendors.

But this variety has always existed, Commander said. Despite larger corporations pulling consumers’ focus, Commander said it’s almost certain a Black-owned business carries a desired product — and in all likelihood, it’s closer than you think.

“There are 100% people who do the thing that you’re looking for, you just have to go out and look for them.”

 

Contact Heather at hbushman@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @hgrizzl.

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