The sounds of DJs playing reggaeton and hip-hop, cars revving their engines and the conversations of crowds filled the street surrounding the How Bazar Friday night.
The humid Florida climate did not deter Gainesville locals from the Block Party. Attendees posed for photos in front of luxury cars, grabbed bites to eat at a variety of food vendors and danced to live music from three different stages.
The organization’s third-ever Block Party extended across the exteriors of several buildings surrounding the How Bazar’s official location. The event attracted crowds of people eager to immerse themselves in a community experience rarely seen in Gainesville.
How Bazar founders Laila Fakhoury, 25, and Khary Khalfani, 22 envisioned events like the Block Party when they began planning the How Bazar in 2020.
They began collaborating with Jose Peruyero through their record label, Dion Dia in 2018. Peruyero invested in the pair and bought them their first set of silent disco headphones, allowing them to have autonomous events at venues around the city.
After the three of them collaborated together at vintage markets, they realized their creative missions aligned and began planning a project that reflected their artistic and communal goals.
“Florida is our home,” said Khalfani. “We have an innate desire to develop our home culturally and economically.”
The three of them, along with Holly Mccoy and Ryan Aktridge, became the five original co-owners of the How Bazar. Fakhoury took the role of Event Planner and Public Relations. Khalfani became the Creative Director.
How Bazar was created with the goal of being ambiguous. And it worked. Fakhoury describes how people she’s close to attend How Bazar regularly never know how to describe it to others.
“We wanted it to be just this living entity that could constantly change and adapt to what the community wants and needs,” Fakhoury said.
How Bazar held its first Block Party during its grand opening in January 2022.
Owners realized the store’s capacity of 150 people would not be able to fit the range of the event they had in mind. How Bazar took to the streets to expand their reach.
Fakhoury spent close to four months researching how to officially close down the street and obtaining the proper permitting for the event.
Instead of planning just a market with vendors or an average party with a DJ, How Bazar sought to combine music, food, fashion, cars, dance, skateboarding and local businesses all into one large, outdoor party.
The event proved to be a success, with about 1,200 people attending its grand opening. The Block Party’s success helped Fakhoury realize the community needed more events that brought together Gainesville’s underrepresented communities.
“Where else in Gainesville do you really hear hip-hop music and R&B music blasted in the street and see skaters in the street?” Fakhoury asked.
As time went on the event expanded. Khalfani considers it the How Bazar’s “ultimate event.”
Tatiana Saleh, 25, is the founder of “Hard-Pressed Tati,” a small business where she sells colorful polymer clay earrings. Her craft began as a hobby. Saleh made a pair of earrings every day as a way of dressing up for her job as a personal assistant.
Fakhoury invited Saleh to set up a pop-up at the grand opening in 2022. Tai decided to expand her business following its unexpected success at the Block Party. It’s now her second job, Saleh said.
She returned to Friday’s Block Party with a booth displaying a variety of polymer earrings and a passion for the opportunities this event brings.
“The How Bazar is doing something that literally no other event space is doing in Gainesville with the way they’re able to bring such a diverse group of people,” Saleh said.
Other vendors supplied guests with food and refreshments.
At Friday’s event, Kate Yeun, 23, and Brandon Ramirez, 24, served iced superfood lattes to attendees. They started their business, Coteríe Market, as a pop-up market two years ago. Now, they own a store next to Cypress & Grove Brewing Company that features various small business items, as well as hosts events and workshops.
“They have, like, a huge sense of community. You can tell just by being here tonight,” Yeun said. “It’s always a good time.”
Aside from food and art vendors, this year’s Block Party featured new activities inspired to creatively bring locals together.
Waiters from Gainesville classics such as Crybaby’s, Loosey’s and Karma Cream sprinted while holding trays full of drinks during the event's Waiter’s Race. Local skateboarders took turns riding through a makeshift skate park, doing ollies and creative tricks while a crowd enthusiastically cheered them on.
Fakhoury expressed that this camaraderie between the downtown businesses and the Gainesville community is important for everyone.
“It’s not just like a bunch of islands and people, like, not collaborating together,” Fakhoury said. “Our whole ethos with How Bazar is that we are created by community.”
Another highlight of the night was the Hip-Hop Dance Battle, where dancers took turns freestyling to upbeat music between the colorful muraled walls of a downtown parking garage.
Miranado Atemici, 37, a Miami-based dancer, hosted the event.
Atemici found his passion for dancing as a child in his home country, the French Guiana. Atemici and several friends formed a dance group that received backing from the French government.
In 2017, Atemici decided he wanted to stay in America, and moved to Miami. After coming to Gainesville last year and searching for dance opportunities, Atemici found himself at How Bazar.
“That was the perfect spot, the perfect people, perfect energy,” Atemici said.
He came up with the idea of a Hip-Hop Dance Battle with the goal of creating a positive, undemanding space where anyone can let loose and show off their dance skills. Instead of the winner being picked by a panel of judges, the crowd would be the “jury.”
“Hip hop is really about three things: peace, love and having fun,” Atemici said.
In order to make it to this event, Atemici worked a triple shift at his job in Miami. Although he’s performed on stage in the French Guiana and France, this event was his first time hosting in English.
Atemici likes a challenge, and wants to keep building a hip-hop dance community in Gainesville, he said.
“There’s huge potential,” Atemici said. “All these international students ... they really bring so many visions and vibes and energy into Gainesville.”
When it comes to How Bazar, Fakhoury wants Gainesville to know that it has a lot to offer.
“How Bazar is more than just the events we do,” Fakhoury said. “We worked hard to get in here so that creatives and, like, our community could have an area where they could come together and meet others.”
Contact Bonny Matejowsky at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bonnymatejowsky
Bonny Matejowsky is a third-year journalism major and a Fall 2023 Avenue Reporter. When she’s not writing, you can find her thrifting or watching Twin Peaks.