ST. PETERSBURG — One of the biggest Small Business Saturday celebrations in Florida gets even bigger this year with its new location at the Vinoy Park.
The Shopapalooza Festival showcased up to 165 vendors and was previously held on consecutive Saturdays after Thanksgiving at Straub Park.
But this year, the nearly seven acres of additional land will accommodate more than 225 vendors, and the festival is now a two-day event celebrating local arts, music and businesses.
The festival will include a food hall with more than 20 local restaurants and cafes such as Callaloo, Pipo’s Cuban Cafe and Buddy Brew; beauty, skincare and soap vendors; various hand-crafted jewelry and arts vendors, clothing and boutiques. It also will feature a live painting and sketching area, kids zone, activity zone, gift-wrapping station, music stage for local artists and Christmas tree display.
The fun kicks off at 10 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at the Vinoy Park located at 701 Bayshore Drive NE. The event is free and pet-friendly.
In addition to the upgraded venue, there are other noteworthy changes this year.
There is a free trolley courtesy of the St. Petersburg Downtown Looper that will transport attendees from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and popular biking company, CoastBikeshare, will provide a free bike valet for locals wishing to bike to the festival.
Ester Venouziou, the founder of the event organizing company, LocalShops1, said the setup also is different.
Traditionally all the vendors were lined up in a row, but now they’re aiming for a “village concept” where the vendors are arranged in a circle facing the park.
'I think it’s going to make people stay longer and it’s going to be better for the vendors," she said.
“It encourages everyone to walk around. And if you take the entire route, you’re going to pass by every vendor.”
One thing that will never change is its self-proclaimed title as the “biggest and best local alternative to Black Friday.”
“We know we can’t compete with people standing in a long line trying to buy a TV,” Venouziou said.
“But we’ve encouraged our vendors to be very festive and have Black Friday deals. Our mission is to encourage people to support local businesses, your brick and mortars, rather than bigger stores.”
Tampa-based hot sauce company, Intensity Academy Gourmet Sauces, is one of its vendors that always takes that advice.
The owner, Michele Northrup, is known for sporting hot pepper hats and an apron with flames, offering shots of hot sauce and Black Friday specials. This year she’s offering a “Saucy” four-pack caddy, where customers can choose between three sauces or spices and one dip for $20, which saves them $8 off the original price.
Northrup has participated in Shopapalooza every year since it started 10 years ago and said it has benefitted her business significantly.
She first started Intensity Academy as an online and pop-up market business in 2006, three years before Shopapalooza existed and before social media became widely popular for businesses.
But now thanks to Shopapalooza it has grown, and her hot sauces are sold or used across Tampa Bay in places like the Tampa Bay Farmer’s Market, Bearss Groves, Red Hot Tiki in Gulfport, Savory Spice Shop in St. Petersburg, Winn-Dixie’s throughout Florida, all six Burger Monger locations and all Eats American Grill locations.
“I really love the event, and the reason I’ve done it every year is because it focuses on the mom and pop shops, the local artisans and crafters, and it’s just a great community event,” Northrup said.
“I don’t have a marketing budget, so the only way I get my name out there is to do events. I was able to reach people that I wouldn’t normally be able to reach.”