By Peter Edgar
Last Saturday Downtown Lakeland held “Girls Night Out,” a community wide-collaboration of local restaurants, arts venues, salons, and other businesses aimed at bringing the best of the city to its feminine half. More than 25 entities participated in offering deals and specials to women that included passes to the Lakeland Grilled Cheese Festival, coming up in October and hair treatments.
This event was executed largely due to the work of the Downtown Lakeland Partnership (DLP), the organization also behind First Friday and the Food Truck Rally. According to Katherine Lake, FSC alumni, member of the Partnership and founder of My Office and More, plans for the event began in the late spring. Lake noted that Lee Williams, owner of Got Candy, and Mark Parker, owner of Bella Visage Medical Rejuvenation, served as leaders in the development of the event.
Lake said that the idea behind Girls’ Night Out was to organize an event downtown that didn’t require blocking off of roads around Munn Park and renting of barriers. The challenge was convincing the local businesses to stay open into the night after a full day of business.
By the time the event began, the DLP had secured 13 stops for participants to tour. They also reached out to stores based outside the Downtown perimeter, like 5th and Hall and SoLa Petit Four, among others, to accumulate a total of more than 25 vendors.
The next step for the DLP was to attract customers. Beyond the specials offered upon walk-in, as well as a large social media presence from the various participants, some shops held raffles. The largest of the raffles, known as the “Big Basket of Fun,” was filled with merchandise from various stores with a total value of more than $1000.
Another opportunity afforded to the women was a photo-op with male models provided by Urban Appeal. Jan Coachman, a local manager of SendOutCards and member of the Lakeland Business Leaders uploaded the photo-op pictures onto her SendOutCards computer program. Then, she designed a personalized card with each lady’s pictures mailed it to their home address on the spot.
Mrs. Coachman described the event as very tiring for those involved, but also as one that provides rewards down the road. She noted that a number of women who interacted with her during the evening were interested in her business, and she expects that the same was true for many of the other vendors at Girls’ Night Out.
“[Events like this are] important because it lets people know what’s going on downtown. It lets people know that Downtown Lakeland has made a comeback, that it’s safe for families. They can see the downtown area in a new light” Lake said.
Lake also provided an inside scoop concerning Posto 9, the new Brazilian Gastropub opening this December as she attended a tasting on Sept. 22. She stated that the 3-story restaurant and club’s food is superb, and noted that its extended weekend hours may inspire other store-owners to stay open later in the evening, as well as attract visitors from outside of Lakeland.
Overall, Lake judges that the event made for a “very successful night”, despite the heavy rain that occurred for about thirty minutes around 7 o’clock. When asked about the impact she believed that Girls’ Night Out would have, she predicted one that will be “just phenomenal”.
Many attendees of the event came to a similar consensus. It seems like Polk County’s self-proclaimed “little mecca of cool” had not just a literal “Big Basket of Fun,” but a metaphorical one as well.
Information concerning future Downtown Lakeland events can be found at downtownlakelandfl.com.
Further information concerning My Office and More/Posto 9 can be found at myofficeandmore.com and posto9gastropub.com, respectively.