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Larry Blustein

Taking it to the streets

By Larry Blustein
Hollywood – In the three previous years that the Party on the J has been taking place, the community has slowly started to join in and take part.

Last Sunday, Johnson Street – from 56th to 59th closed down for nearly seven hours – as residents and visitors alike came to celebrate a community that is doing their part to keep the revitalization of Hollywood going strong.

Because of what Wal-Mart and the surrounding stores on Hollywood Boulevard have been able to attract with renovations that are continuing to progress, many in West Hollywood and Hollywood Gardens have long felt that if they host more events, maybe they can get the spillover from the ongoing transformation of the 441 corridor.

On Sunday, Johnson Street once again showcased any business and restaurant that lines these three-plus blocks. While people came to eat, walk, listen to music and enjoy the outside weather, they also saw what this area has to offer. When driving, you never have the opportunity to fully scan what they have in this strip of businesses.

As area residents walked, came by bike and made this a day-long event, once again local merchants and business leaders took the lead and had fun in the street.

“Great time once again,” said Hollywood Hills resident Cheryl Miller. “It started out slow, but it picked up. I came here last year and the weather alone is worth taking this in.”

Whether it was to have some lunch or take in the many businesses that were open – or even if they were closed – to see what this area has and how it could be helpful to you and your family down the line.

“To me, it’s about promoting the entire City of Hollywood,” said Commissioner Kevin Biederman, District 5, who was also at the event to showcase his PestPro Services. “You want to let those on the eastern portion of the community know that these events are for them as well. This street festival idea, especially this time of year, is great and will continue to grow.”

What makes this a unique event is that very few communities throughout South Florida are as tied with “mom and pop-style” businesses. Johnson Street, outside of a few gas stations, is home to very few, large franchise merchants. That hometown appeal is what brings Carl and Mary Gardner from Hallandale Beach to take in the festivities.

Certainly, the centerpiece in this event are anchor businesses like Gino's Italian American Meat Market & Deli and Mimi's Ravioli, you know that this was the destination for so many who had a taste for Italian food and some fine wines.

“This is what makes this event for me,” Carmine Dee from Hollywood said. “I love the foods and bakery goods from both sides of the street. The prices were very low for the quality you get.”

Indeed, having this event becomes better when more and more of those businesses along Johnson Street take part. After all, they are certainly the ones who will benefit.”

“While Hallandale Beach has so many attractions, the lack of that community feel that a street festival brings, is why we come here,” Mary explained. “Things to get you out of the house - to a free event - is what we search for and something like this is the perfect venue.”

Another aspect is the music. Whether it’s at one of the storefront locations - or watching the impressive band Ovrhol, playing throughout the day on the Koffee Kult Stage, it really got people on their feet. So did Dj Oski.

As they plan for a 5th year, many things will be added and more people will find out about a late winter street festival, that is under the radar.