Before the Florida Strawberry Festival comes to a close you should check out some of these unique vendors.
One of the best parts of the Florida Strawberry Festival is the unique vendors who set up shop throughout the 11-day event.
The Festival is the perfect place to visit old friends and stumble upon new favorites while you stroll the grounds with a hot donut in one hand and your wallet in another.
Denise Young has impacted fashion throughout Plant City for decades. For years she had a boutique on Alexander Street, but when the economy took a turn she quickly got out and transitioned to pop up shops. You can find her at Vintage Market Days in Tampa, Fancy Flee, downtown shows, the Plant City High School Holiday market and all across Florida at different festivals. She’s been a staple at the Florida Strawberry Festival for almost 15 years and has quite a cult following from out-of-towners and locals alike who flock to her booth in the TECO Hall.
“People come back looking for us every year,” Young said. “It’s a boutique style shop, which is something a little different than a lot of the vendors here. A lot come looking for our strawberry shirts, but many walk away with jewelry, home decor and a variety of chic clothes.”
Young participates in the Strawberry Fashion Show every year and many of her loyal Plant City customers are invited out to her home for a special preview of the new designs right before the opening of the festival. While they shop they also take the time to catch up with on another, turning the day into a memorable social gathering.
It’s become a generational experience. Young’s boutique is also ran by her mother and now her daughter. The family loves getting to know their guests and helping them find quality goods they’ll love for years to come.
“I had one lady yesterday come over wearing a shirt she bought from me 10 years ago,” Young said. “She said she has loved it all these years and was always looking for something else to take home. I love fellowship, I love people. That’s my calling. You meet so many neat people doing these pop up shops. You may not see them every day, but you get to fellowship with them and hopefully see them next year at the same event.”
If you head across the street to the Parke Building you’ll find two one-of-a-kind vendors side by side, usually with a crowd hovering in their stalls.
Faye Bell has been a vendor at the festival for 24 years. Her Gone With the Wind booth features iconic pieces from the legendary film that every avid collector and faithful fan would adore. Giant paintings of the beloved characters, porcelain Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler figurines and even signed portraits of the stars are all on display.
Bell herself has a deep-rooted love of the film and has met and even befriended several of its stars. Many may recognize the statuesque woman behind the counter. She and her husband had a store at Cypress Gardens in 1998 and ran a shop in Plant City as well for years.
The Plant City residents share their love with the world now only through the festival and their online boutique at gwtwmemories.com.
It all began years ago when her personal collection continued to grow until she had enough to open a warehouse showroom to the public and share the items with the masses. It’s brought her countless joys over the years and she said she never tires of meeting the avid movie fans that are drawn to her collection.
“People don’t usually come in unless they’re big enthusiasts,” Bell said. “I’ve met some lovely people over the years. When they walk in they usually have their eye on something and are just ecstatic to have spotted it… It’s been a full time income for a long time. I told my husband I was going to retire, but he knew me well enough to know that probably wasn’t going to happen. I convinced him to give me two more years. That was 13 years ago.”
Bell recently added John Wayne, Lucille Ball and Elvis Presley merchandise to the booth as well to add an even more diverse offering to the mix.
If you step outside her booth and take two steps to the booth right next door you’ll find Peter Holmbeck’s RockNRoll Jewelry stand. Holmbeck was in high school when he first sought a way to reuse his old guitar strings. He payed a lot of money for them and didn’t want them to go to waste so he decided quite spontaneously to see if he could make them into a bracelet.
When he was in college he began selling the unique jewelry and he was successful enough to graduate debt free. Established in 1991 the company operates under the motto of, “reduce, reuse, rocknroll.”
“Everything you see here I make out of music,” Holmbeck said. “I made my first bass-let and once I realized these could really be something cool I had a dozen designs completed within a week.”
A pun enthusiast, the designs bear names like GuitarWrist and Heavy Metal Chains. He’s been selling at festivals throughout the country for decades and has been at the Florida Strawberry Festival for approximately 10 years.
The festival will forever hold a special place in his heart. Just a few years ago a beautiful redhead walked up to his booth to buy a GSUS Saves guitar pick for her father. He was smitten and the two quickly began dating. Now they’re happily married and he said they even had a strawberry themed wedding.
“I really love the Strawberry Festival,” Holmbeck said. “I grew up on a dairy farm, I learned to work hard. We had Holstein cows and grew some crops as well. I love farm life so to have a festival that is so agriculturally focused I think is really special.”