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Shops In Railroad Square Art Park To Have Unofficial First Friday

Aerial view of the Railroad Square Art Park.
Railroad Square Art District
Some shops within the Railroad Square Art District will be extending their hours this Friday.

Some shops in the Railroad Square Art Park will be extending their hours this Friday and encouraging people to browse their wares. Store owners hope this unofficial First Friday will help them stay in business amid struggles caused by the coronavirus.

On a typical First Friday, Foto Studio would take pictures of people for free. Co-owner Bob O'Lary says that helps him build clientele in the future because those people keep him in mind when they need professional photos taken later:

"We probably make 50% of our revenue from people who come in, we photograph them for free, and then they come back and say, 'we need pictures of our family,' or 'do you do weddings?'"

But that income has been drying up over the past several months. First Fridays have been canceled since April because of concerns about large gatherings of people contributing to the spread of the coronavirus. O'Lary says he's working at a 50% deficit. He says other businesses in Railroad Square are hurting too:

"The people who pay rent every month are going, 'We're going broke. We're going broke, and people are going out and spending money. They're wearing their mask, they're social distancing, and they're shopping but not here. Well, maybe if we all open this first Friday, it will get them coming back to us.'"

This coming Friday, O'Lary will open up his business as he would on a typical First Friday, and he's not the only one. Halisi Africa will also be extending its hours. Co-owner and operations manager Bryant Shaw:

"Without First Friday, it was a big hit. No doubt. That's our usual guaranteed—we're going to make rent and do some marketing this day."

Shaw says the business struggled to make rent in April and May, but then a wave of support for black-owned businesses helped him throughout June and July:

"Before school was coming back in, we were just freaking out, like, what are we going to do? We have to plan an event. We have to figure out some way to survive."

Shaw says halfway through August, students moving back to Tallahassee for college helped bring in the revenue needed to keep his business afloat. He's now organizing a Labor Day weekend treasure hunt with other shops in Railroad Square and hopes to continue having monthly events.

Robbie Gaffney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.