It's Friday night on Sixth Street in South Beach, and we're huddled in a cozy little clothing boutique over glasses of wine. After pondering a rack of gray acid-washed jean shorts, a young blond woman reenacts a scene from the English class she teaches at UM, exaggerating her own native Minne-so-tan accent when she plays herself. A tall and smiling dread-locked Brazilian guy enters the room, and words of welcome, kisses and hugs usurp the impromptu performance.
This is a scene from the Sixth Street Movement party last night. "The Movement" consists of a bunch of shops on Sixth Street between Euclid and Meridian Avenues in South Beach that are focused on creating a sense of community in our transient town. Under the Mango Tree, a smoothie and local artisan shop, its sister store Native Boutique Clothing, and newcomer/neighbor Crème Fresh Vintage Clothing hosted last night's party - the third and the biggest of its kind in recent months.
By the smoothie bar inside Under the Mango Tree, patrons partook of free wine, spiked fruit punch and light munchies. Locals ordered smoothies and $2 freshly-juiced ginger shots, while a trio of young fit women chatted about whether Chinese medicine-based muscle tests or the Elimination Diet is a better tool for identifying dietary allergens.
The sounds of acoustic guitar and hand drums drifted in from the torch-lit yard out front. There, people stood in clusters. Some had their dogs. Some were very young. Some were kind of old. Some were black, some Hispanic, and some white. All were smiling and drifting slowly in and out of the shops, as conversations ebbed and flowed.
"Back in the day, [this strip] used to be a place where it was not necessarily the safest place to walk. And because the businesses have taken residence here, it's a place where people are now really comfortable to come," said Jessica Fusco, owner of Native Boutique Clothing. "So we know South Beach in terms of entertainment value, in terms of the restaurants, and the money that it brings in. But what about the people who are not interested in that? Where do they go? So that's what the sixth street movement ultimately brings: a sense of community for people from all walks of life."
Scott McMullen, who after many trips back and forth just recently became a full-time SoBe resident, shared his thoughts between mouthfuls of crackers and hummus.
"I like it. I think it's a part of the life for South Beach that people don't know about. A lot of people focus on tourists and tourism and people who come and go," McMullen said.
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Monica Delgado, best friend to Mango Tree owner Patricia Oleson, helped set up for the party. She explained that the gathering would not only benefit this community, but a far-away one as well: The proceeds from the $2 raffle tickets sold outside the shop would go to Responsible Charity via Eddy Rivero, a local and friend who committed to help build a children's center in Calcutta after being moved by appalling conditions on a recent visit there. Prizes from the raffle, including gift bags and yoga classes, were donated by Miami Life Center, Native Boutique, and Under the Mango Tree. The goal was to raise $250 during the party; they raised $260.
We noticed that many guests contributed their own bottles of wine to the gathering. You don't see that too often at art parties in Wynwood. Why did guests feel so moved?
"I think more than anything, it's Patty," said Delgado. "They come to talk and tell her how their day went. It's more than just a juice. She has a great personality. So they come in and love what's happening here. They're part of a community, so they want to help out and give something of themselves."