As Lakeland celebrates Mother’s Day and Mayfaire-by-the-Lake this weekend, a new event will create a block party atmosphere downtown on Saturday night complete with popup vendors, specialty foods and the debut of new festive lighting.
The Buena Block Party will be held Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. on Kentucky Avenue between Lemon Street and the alleyway near Palace Pizza. The street will be blocked off for the event, allowing adults of age to consume alcohol in the street.
Buena Market is a curated pop-up market created by Stephanie Bernal Gregg, a creative entrepreneur who moved to Lakeland from Austin in 2017.
“I was definitely honored and just excited to do something on this scale. You know having the city support us and want to essentially sponsor an event that we’re hosting is a big deal,” Gregg said. “It’s a really exciting opportunity.”
LDDA Executive Director Julie Townsend said she asked Gregg to partner on the project because Buena Market has a different following than the other events LDDA typically hosts.
“I felt like she had a different demographic that she targeted with her people that is probably more appropriate for the overall block party atmosphere,” said Julie Townsend. “We didn’t want it to have a First Friday feel.”
Townsend said LDDA will also debut festive string lights on Kentucky Avenue from Lemon Street to Pine street. They will hang from the trees and zig zag over the street.
Along with the restaurants and bars located on the street, more than 20 vendors will participate in the block party. Some of them include food and drink vendors like Pinoy Cravings, a Filipino street food vendor, Bandidas, which will be debuting its pop-up restaurant concept, and Dissent Craft Brewing Company, which will be pouring beer samples. The brewing company plans to open a taproom at 125 S. Kentucky Ave., next to Pita Pit.
A DJ performs from 7 to 10 p.m.
“I’m trying to have a really fun event that is unique from all of the different night events that happen in downtown Lakeland,” Gregg said.
“We are excited to further reach more of the community and be a part of this forward-thinking market,” said Prim Burney, owner of Open Door Wellness.
Burney said her sales are typically doubled at Buena Market, compared to the other markets she participates in. She said Buena Market has helped her expand her Winter Haven business’ customer base to Lakeland. Along with loose leaf teas, Burney also offers private and group yoga sessions.
Bump Galletta feared he’d be out of business when the pandemic first hit. He applied for several jobs delivering groceries and meals, and then quit before he even started because illustration commissions started coming in.
“The week I was supposed to do those jobs, all this work started coming in. People ordering house portraits. I had a lot of logo work. I ended up being the busiest I’ve ever been this year drawing wise,” he said.
Galletta said his retail and online sales have also increased.
Pre-pandemic, his market sales accounted for half of his business’ revenue. It’s also where he made connections that led to some major commissions for his illustrations by networking with people who stopped by his booth. He’s happy Buena Market exists to give him that outlet again.
“These have been great. They’ve had a great turnout. I enjoy how they market it. The look they have. The vibe they have,” Galletta said.
Gregg held her first Buena Market in the middle of the pandemic last July on her front porch with three vendors and invited her neighbors to stop by. Since then, Buena Market has grown to more than a dozen pop-up markets around Lakeland, all with a different theme.
“It feels very humbling, honestly. I did this because I needed it and I thought others might appreciate it,” Gregg said.
The largest market to date was the holiday market, held at Lkld Live over three days with more than 50 vendors.
“Without the support of the Lakeland community and business community, Buena Market wouldn’t be what it is right now so I’m grateful,” Gregg said.
Originally, Gregg’s plan for Buena Market was a brick-and-mortar store to showcase unique local goods but those plans had to be put on hold when the pandemic hit. She created the pop-up markets to help local makers who depended on this sort of gathering for their livelihoods. With many of the other markets pausing their events, Gregg said these makers were struggling to get their goods in front of potential customers during the pandemic and it was hurting their sales.
“A lot of people were out of work. They were stuck at home. It was scary to do it but also I felt like we had to find a way to adapt. We couldn’t just sit and wait,” Gregg said.
Gregg has worked hard to make her events Covid-conscious, strongly encouraging people to wear masks, use hand sanitizer, and practice social distancing. Most of her markets have been held outdoors. She requires vendors to wear masks.
“Ever since we began, because we started early on in the pandemic, it was the most important priority to make sure everyone wore masks and respected each other’s space. We have an amazing record of everybody respecting that, those safety protocols,” Gregg said.
With the block party, she’s hoping people will continue to wear masks.
“We’re going to do our best to make sure that people understand this is still a space where we need to be considerate of our neighbor’s safety and be mindful of that. Wear our masks,” Gregg said, adding there will be an area for eating and drinking.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccinated people wear a mask when attending a “crowded, outdoor event, like a live performance, parade or sports event.” Its guidance says vaccinated people can “dine at an outdoor restaurant with friends from multiple households” without wearing a mask. For those who haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC recommends wearing a mask at outdoor events, outdoor restaurants, and when attending small, outdoor gatherings.
Gregg said she hasn’t been informed of any COVID-19 cases related to her market. She also encourages vendors to use contactless payments.
The next event Gregg is planning is Buena Art Bazaar, on Friday, May 21, from 5-9 p.m. at Lkld Live, 202 N. Massachusetts Ave. She’s cohosting the event with Red Tent Initiative, a nonprofit organization. It will be an art-centric market with local creators, music, and food.
People can apply to become vendors at buenamarket.com.