Above photo: Mandy Keyes, the owner of Community Cafe, stands in front of her shop which is a self-proclaimed safe space that aims to be your home away from home. Jonah Hinebaugh | The Crow’s Nest
By Brianna Brosch
Dozens of local artists and craftsmen lined Grand Central Ave Saturday to celebrate the fourth annual Grandiversary Block Party.
Mandy Keyes, Community Cafe owner and organizer of the event, has strived every year to create a welcoming atmosphere with local indie music. Despite the amount of work it takes, Keyes loves planning and organizing events where she gets to invite the whole community.
Local businesses and vendors show up every year.
Musicians and artists show up every month.
All kinds of people show up. One of those people was Mandy McClellan, owner of BananaCandy, a retail business that specializes in culinary themed handbags and custom apparel.
“I started making clothes again last year when my friend wanted a loaded baked potato dress. I started doing this full time to pursue my dream of fashion,” McClellan said
“Mandy Candy,” as she is sometimes called, enjoyed bonding with other vendors while getting her name out there.
There’s no shortage of local talent at the Community Cafe; there’s no shortage of events either. This year’s Grandiversary celebrated the cafe’s fourth year in business. The event was held in conjunction with Old Key West Bar and Grill, which was celebrating its third year, and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 39, which is one year away from its centennial.
All three business owners enjoy having the event each year and said it helps both visitors and locals become more aware of their area.
Mitch Faber, owner of Old Key West Bar and Grill, loves seeing the crowds of regulars that come out for the celebration.
“It brings everybody together and keeps money in the community,” he said.
The event has grown over the years. This year’s party expanded from 2400 to the 2500 blocks of Central. The free event lined the streets with over 40 local craft vendors and featured ten bands in five different locations.
With 99 years in business, VFW Post 39 has decades of history to offer, starting with the torpedo the Navy donated in 1944. The post was established in 1919 by veterans of the Spanish American War and World War I and continues to welcome veterans of foreign wars.
Post Commander and Iraq veteran Janice Pettit said that as downtown St. Petersburg expands and commercializes, it takes away the community’s identity. For this reason, she enjoys the Grandiversary and its ability to unite the city.
“It defines the community and brings back the spirit of St. Pete,” Pettit said.
The vendors and businesses enjoy the event and the publicity it brings them.
David Rule, a participating painter, said “As long as St. Pete keeps a good vibe with these businesses, it creates high traffic. It’s good exposure.”
Other vendors shared similar thoughts, saying the location helps get the word out and grow their business.
“It brings life to Central and I think it should be like this every weekend. I’m glad to be a part of it,” wood carving artist Chris Jones said.
For Keyes, the positive feedback from everyone involved makes it all worthwhile. “(It’s about) making it bigger than just ourselves.”