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Shop Local – Top 12

This Good News Story written by Jamey Hitchcock is a Realize Bradenton production funded by the Knight Donor Advised Fund at the Manatee Community Foundation.

This series has been an accumulation of Why We Love This City Bradenton, and to bring it back full circle this article is going to talk about the heart of downtown.

Where local music comes alive.

Where the Bradenton Farmers’ Market brings together the community every Saturday morning.

And where a couple of local shops have been part of attracting locals and newcomers every week. 

With the cafés and bars in downtown, it’s common to see local musicians playing regularly at some of our favorite spots. You can catch Undine Shorey, a local multi-instrumentalist, who plays a mix of jazz, R&B and soul, at the Central Café, 906 Manatee Avenue East and various public and private events. To follow where she’s playing, visit her Facebook page

“Music is its own language,” Shorey said. “You can be any age, any background and still connect with complete strangers because the love of music brings people together. Music breaks down walls. You can’t help but get up and dance when a good song comes on. Anyone can relate to that feeling. All it takes is one person to start dancing and then the entire dance floor is filled. Why? Because we are wired to connect, you can find out a lot about a person by the music they listen to.”

Downtown is known for bringing in local musicians and among them is Terrence Fearon (aka Tbone), a guitarist and singer at Tom’s Bad Ass Café, 312 12th Street West, or McCabe’s Irish Pub, 302 12th Street West, on the weekends. 

Fearon has recently jumped back into the music scene. Having grown up in Bradenton, he loves showing the community what he learned at Manatee School for the Arts. 

“Getting back out playing again has been so much better than I anticipated it would possibly be, especially after so many years of not playing live,” Fearon said. “Connecting with people through live music, watching or playing has always been one of my favorite things in the world.

It can really cut through all the hard stuff we all deal with daily. If the vibes are good and people are locked in that moment with you, it really doesn’t get much better that.”

While we know how awesome local music can be, there is so much more going on downtown in Bradenton. Take the Bradenton Farmer’s Market, an eclectic assortment of booths that carry local food, handmade goods, and artwork. 

Morgan Bettes, the Farmer’s Market manager, has recently become an essential part of planning and organizing the vendors and those interested in applying to set up booths at the market. Bradenton, which proudly calls itself The Friendly City, generates good vibes to visitors on Saturday mornings and Bettes is a big reason people keep returning.

“Farmers’ markets are important for so many reasons,” Bettes said. “From an economic standpoint, it’s a cost-effective way for local businesses to sell their products in the marketplace. It’s a place for farmers to connect with their communities, educate them and sell produce in the freshest way possible. Many people find the farmers’ market to be a place that gives them pride in their community and connects them to where they live.”

Despite COVID regulations and strict protocols people faced the past year, the Farmer’s Market has been a safe environment for the community to social distance and enjoy what downtown has to offer.

But now, more than ever, the Farmer’s Market needs the community’s patronage.

“Support the vendors, keep shopping with us each week, buying your favorite products, rain or shine,” Bettes said. “By wearing masks, using our hand sanitizer stations and social distancing, that will allow us to continue to have the market every Saturday. By helping us all keep healthy and safe, all of the benefits from the market are able to be in play.”

Shopping locally doesn’t end at the Farmer’s Market, but continues with the small, established businesses that have been a unique part of downtown. 

Have you ventured over to Gypsea Soul, 615 15th Street West?

It’s a boutique, art studio and a hair salon all in one. They have customers coming in to browse, who will often return later for an art class, or get their hair done and bring in friends to explore the shop.

And such backing has helped local businesses like Gypsea Soul thrive despite the pandemic. 

“We have seen consistent support from our community and have met so many wonderful people,” owner Ashley Louda said. “I have been able to meet other shop owners, as well, who have been kind enough to refer me business and we make sure to return the favor. The downtown area has seen a lot of growth since we’ve been here and new businesses are still popping up downtown. It’s amazing what such a small area has to offer and it’s really nice to be this close to the water and have all the basics.”

Yet another new, small business that has benefitted from community support despite COVID is Saw Blossom, 1506 13th Street West. It’s a custom-made furniture store that has begun to flourish in the Village of the Arts within walking distance from downtown.

“The Village community has embraced us and we certainly support one another,” owner Jeannie Vazquez said. “We’re very grateful for everyone who has spread the word about our shop. And we keep up with our social media pages to let locals know what we’re about and when we have new items to offer. We’re still growing our online shop, allowing people to shop online and to have their orders picked up or locally delivered.”

Although Saw Blossom is new, it is growing, another example of what continued community support can do.

This post is part of the Top 12 Reasons We Love This City series. Read more here.

This post is part of the Top 12 Reasons We Love This City series. Read more here.

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