If you’ve been to the Woodlawn Street Market, then you’ve seen its magic—from the crowd that fills up downtown Woodlawn, to busy vendors showcasing their wares, to the music and dancing that fills the parking lot on the corner of 55th Place.
But, if you look closely, you’ll see the one person working tirelessly to make it all happen—Woodlawn Urban Main Community Facilitator Rebekah Fox.
“My favorite thing has been just to connect because when I first came into Woodlawn, I understood how special it was,” she said. “I could sense the history and I could get excited about the future. It was really easy for me to see how the neighborhood had been overlooked.”
Initially, Fox worked with REV to bring more foot traffic to downtown Woodlawn through the Revive initiative.
“I got super involved with the Revive week because I wanted to make sure it was special,” she said. “Our Revive week was the precursor to what it would look like to have people in Woodlawn again.”
The week of events allowed the idea for the street market to take hold, and, slowly but surely, Fox began to put it on multiple times a year. She even hosted the first night market in 2019.
Fox’s hard work was recently recognized by Main Street Alabama. She named a Main Street Hero in the 7th Annual Annual Awards of Excellence Award. The award honors people, businesses and organizations that make a significant contribution to local Main Street programs such as REV. Read more about awards REV also received.
Her first post-grad job landed her in Birmingham and her work at Communicating Vessels in downtown Woodlawn led to her finding a place in the community.
She also began to build relationships with neighborhood business owners through her work with the Woodlawn Business Association.
These kinds of connections are what she says made the area thrive in the past and something that would help it in the future.
“If Woodlawn could just connect with each other if businesses—new and legacy— could connect with residents and community leaders. If they could talk to each other again, we could do something the right way where everyone not only had an invitation to the talk but were allowed to speak. Then, everyone’s needs could be addressed.”
According to Fox, Woodlawn was beginning to show how that kind of involvement could benefit the neighborhood before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even in our first Woodlawn Business Association Meeting of the year, I was already seeing new faces and stronger voices,” she recalled. “That’s important—everyone feeling safe to say whatever their opinion is. The neighborhood association meetings had also begun to be more well attended. We were even on community calls to figure out what each Woodlawn organization was doing and how we were going to work together on behalf of Woodlawn.”
COVID not only affected those plans, but it also changed how the Woodlawn Street Market operated. Fox pivoted to fulfill her dream of taking the market online sooner than she had originally planned.
“This market is a starting place for many entrepreneurs,” she said. “So, coordinating a virtual market took extra time and technical assistance to ensure the online version is just as approachable for our vendors as our live market.”
The virtual market launched in June, allowing vendors to not only replace some of their in-person sales but to also give vendors access to tools to launch their e-commerce websites if they didn’t already have one pre-pandemic.
Overall, she hopes Woodlawn continues to thrive.
“Woodlawn deserves to have people frequenting their businesses,” she said. “They’re good businesses. Woodlawn deserves to have people from within Woodlawn starting up their own businesses. Woodlawn also deserves new residents and new business owners to come into the empty spaces that have been vacant for so long.”
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