Local businesses are stepping up to lend a hand to LouFest vendors after the event was canceled unexpectedly this week.
Festival organizers called off the event early Wednesday morning, citing “financial hurdles” and a rainy weekend forecast. Vendors and musicians, many of whom had paid hefty registration fees, were left wondering if they would be able to recoup their costs.
Alex Donley, co-owner of Gioia’s Deli, ordered more than 1,000 pounds of beef and pork in preparation for the event.
The total cost, along with the $3,000 LouFest registration fee, came to nearly $6,000.
In what Donley calls an “incredible” turn of events, he began receiving call after call from fellow business owners, asking what they could do to help.
“Their first reaction was not, ‘Oh man, bummer for you, you shouldn’t have taken the risk,’ Donley said. “It was, ‘How can we help you save your product?’”
Gioia’s Deli has now booked private catering events at several St. Louis businesses, including Urban Chestnut, Anders Certified Public Accounts and 2nd Shift Brewing.
Donley expects they’ll sell almost all of the meat they had planned to sell this year at LouFest.
“The St. Louis food industry took something that was extremely hard to swallow and shined,” Donley said. “They gave me and a lot of other restaurants the support we needed to turn this bad thing into a great thing.”
The outpouring of support for LouFest vendors has extended beyond the food industry.
The St. Louis Women’s Creative, an organization founded in 2017 that supports local female artists and crafters, hosts the St. Louis Women’s Pop Up Shop four times a year.
Co-founder Christina Weaver said they decided to open this weekend’s event to LouFest vendors because they understand the unique challenges small business owners face.
“When you have put that much money and resources behind an event and then it doesn’t work out, it can be tremendously harmful to your business, especially if it’s a smaller company,” Weaver said.
The event, which provides an opportunity for local women-owned businesses and crafters to sell their products, currently has 36 vendors, including two LouFest vendors, Shred415 and JORD Watches.
Weaver, along with St. Louis Women’s Creative co-founders Julie Johnson and Megan Rohall, have waived the registration fees for LouFest vendors.
“We’re all small businesses,” said Weaver, the board chair of Route, a nonprofit that sells ethically produced goods. “We know what you’re going through and we want to support you.”
The St. Louis Women's Pop Up Shop will be held from 12 to 4 p.m., Sunday, at Wild Carrot, 3901 Shaw Blvd.
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