It Benefits Entire Community via sales, jobs and other ventures.
Not a stone was left unturned as hundreds of thousands gathered along Crenshaw Blvd Saturday for the Los Angeles Sentinels 6th Annual Taste of Soul Family Festival where everyone came out a winner.
The positive economic impact on the community is staggering. From official vendors who rented booths on the festival route selling everything from catfish, ribs, kettle corn, arts and crafts to surrounding businesses such as Buffalo Wings and Quiznos, to the temporary help, most were pleasantly surprized with their bottom lines.
“It was an amazing day for us. It had the potential to have been the busiest day of the year for us, but I underestimated the impact of the festival,” said Karim Webb, whose Buffalo Wings franchise in the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Mall area was under construction during last year’s event and he didn’t know what to expect.”
With all the great food vendors working the festival Webb said he was caught a bit off guard by the number of customers who visited his business to eat. He was banking on all the thirsty people just looking for cocktails. As a result of that thinking Webb was understaffed and ill prepared for the hungry multitudes that flocked to his place.
“I won’t make that mistake again. We’ll be ready for it next year. Still, it was a great day for us. I don’t like to throw out figures, but let’s just say it had the potential to have been the busiest day of the year for me, even bigger than SuperBowl Sunday. It was all very positive.”
For Roxanna Gletten, owner of the local Quiznos sandwich shop, Saturday’s festival was a long-awaited victory.
“This year was my first time being impacted in a positive way. In year’s past I didn’t benefit from a Taste of Soul,“ Gletten explained. “This year the customers came in. It was very good for us and we did a lot of business.”
According to Gletten, five years at her present location right near the festival site, business was up 30-40 percent over last year. She credits that to the festival being so well attended. Just from a historical eye perspective this was the biggest turnout to date.
“With such great numbers, businesses that didn’t do well in the past did well this year. And, it was good to see the community all come out and have a good time. It’s a great event and it’s safe,” Gletten added.
The economic impact was so profound some vendors are hoping organizers will extend the hours of the festival or make it a two-day event. Ryan Legeaux, owner/general manager Harold and Belles Creole Restaurant on West Jefferson is one such vendor. “I think they should think about making it a two-day event. I would definitely be in favor of that,” Leageaux said. Although, it’s a lot of work, extra labor and expenditures, Saturday’s event was well worth the effort. “We were extremely busy and had more people than we could serve. Not only did Harold and Belles vending booths make a nice profit, it carried over to the restaurant both Saturday night and on Sunday,” according to Leageaux.
Vendors have to hire extra workers for these events which means a few jobs are created if only for a day.
Muriel Jones, vendor and owner of Shabazz Fish, works with the vendors.
“This had a great impact on our bottom line. It’s incredible. We wish we could have it for two days or until 7 instead of 6 pm. More vendors would make a profit and sell all their product if they had more time,“ Jones said.
Shabazz Fish, a staple in the community for 20 plus years was represented with four booths during the festival, 30 workers at a minimum pay of $12 an hours and still the lines were long. But, that didn’t discourage the faitful who waited patiently for their platter of golden-fried catfish.
“We made a great profit; made enough money to last me for several months,” Jones said.
“People know what they’re going to get when they come to Shabazz. We are consistent. Our food is flavorful, fresh and affordable. You can’t beat the combination.”
In addition to the economic impact of the festival, according to Jones, the numbers dispels the myth about Blacks supporting one another. “People are happy to support Black businesses. This was a nice, calm, peaceful family atmosphere that proves that Blacks are no different than any other race.”
Whatever the combination or secret to success, the buzz in the community is a Taste of Soul was the place to be Oct. 15, 2011.