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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

East Gainesville festival celebrates Black-owned businesses

Local vendors came together Saturday

The brisk, gray weather clung to the air, but it didn’t affect the warm energy of the crowd congregated in East Gainesville on Saturday. The sounds of music and laughter intertwined as people checked out new Black-owned businesses and visited longtime friends at a festival that brought together local vendors and patrons. 

Swarthy East GNV, a new organization aiming to bring a grocery and retail store supporting local Black-owned farms and businesses to the east side of the city, hosted the first Revolution Before Evolution Festival.

The inaugural event, hosted at Northeast 14th Street beside Citizens Field, featured food trucks, live music and community resources. It was Swarthy’s first in-person community event. 

Owner and founder Hatdrika Monroe said the event is the first of many. She said she’s looking at offers for a permanent physical location for the potential grocery and retail store, which will make it so there are more USDA-approved grocery stores in East Gainesville.

“It's important that we provide a safe space for Black-owned businesses to really thrive and offer their services as well as their products to the community,” Monroe said. 

When Nicole Miller was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2015, the last thing she needed to worry about was how to afford her next meal. But after leaving her job at a veterans affairs hospital and facing steep chemotherapy costs, the 32 year old didn’t have a choice. 

Once the mother of three finished her treatment, she was $7,000 behind on her rent payments and $2,000 behind on her car payments. Miller said she had no financial plan to save her — and she wasn’t alone. 

In January 2018, Miller created Blossoming Butterfly, a nonprofit organization that helps breast cancer patients pay their bills while undergoing treatment. Located at 1135 NW 23rd Ave Suite E2, Blossoming Butterfly receives funding through grants and private donors. 

Miller said she was grateful for the opportunity to share her business at the festival. Many are still unaware of Blossoming Butterfly because it just secured its physical location in October. 

“I was able to be engaged with a lot of people that I didn't know, so the opportunity was great,” she said. “I feel like it's something that could grow really big over the years if more of the community got involved.” 

Janay Thomas began her business, Nay Domez Customs, two years ago by creating big heads or “domes,” which are large printed photos of people’s faces on sticks often used at sports events or graduations. Thomas said she eventually expanded her custom print and vinyl business. Now, she produces anything from T-shirts and car decals to yard signs and magnets.  

“Anything that you could think of, I can get it done for you,” she said. “I can put anything on anything.”

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Seeing locals come to the festival and show their support was motivating, she said.  

Julia Rainer, the owner of Create Space, is a childbirth educator and doula, where she provides emotional and physical support to expecting mothers. Create Space allows women to share their thoughts and feelings as they navigate their pregnancies. Rainer visits her clients, and they discuss topics ranging from childbearing and labor advice to simply sharing a personal experience. 

“[It’s] a safe place to empower women and inspire women,” she said. 

She said seeing other Black-owned businesses at the festival was a great experience, and she said everyone had a great time despite the rainy weather. 

“It was amazing that we all fed off each other's energy,” she said. “It was very empowering.”

Contact Bryce at Follow him on Twitter @brycebrownnn.

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Bryce Brown

Bryce Brown is a third-year journalism major and copy editor for The Alligator. He has previously worked as a metro general assignment reporter on the Metro desk and as staff writer for The Avenue. When he's not fretting over deadlines, you can find him drinking copious amounts of black iced coffee and listening to Lana Del Rey.  

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