After long year, Localtopia helps small businesses bounce back

On Saturday, St. Petersburg saw one of its first big festivals since the pandemic began. It was aimed at helping local small businesses get back on their feet. Localtopia happens every year, featuring hundreds of vendors, but this year’s festivities were more important than ever for the businesses and the community alike. 

"How many of us have heard live music in the past year? How many of us have witnessed engaging art experiences? So we tried to find a way that that would still happen as it always has at Localtopia, just in a safely distanced way," said Olga Bof, the director and founder of Keep St. Petersburg Local.

Saturday’s Localtopia fest in downtown St. Petersburg featured nearly 200 small shops, artists and vendors. Embrew is one of those businesses, and they’re no strangers to Localtopia. They made their first sale ever at the festival five years ago.

"I couldn’t be more excited about Localtopia this year just because of how much it means to not just me, but the other small businesses in the area. I love it here," said Ashley Haywood, owner of Embrew. 

However, making this year’s Localtopia happen in light of the pandemic was not easy.

"We had to have set entrances at which masks could be checked and temperature readings would be taken," explained Bof. 

But for vendors like Ashley Haywood, the festival makes all the difference.

"There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that caused small businesses to close, and the ones that were able to hang on really rely on events like this," said Haywood. 

After a long year, it’s the simple face-to-face interactions that make the hard work worth it.

"It’s really awesome to see people‘s reactions and the ones who really love the tea," said Haywood. "It just gives me a level of excitement that I couldn’t get just seeing someone order online."


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