Shops within East End Market. Eric Gutierrez, Central Florida Future
After taking a cross-country trip and experiencing a nation-wide grassroots movement, film and digital media graduate John Rife returned home and started classes at UCF, inspired to create a documentary exposing the rise of the locavore, a person whose diet relies on locally grown food.
Six years later, turns out Rife's cross-country trip inspired a lot more than a documentary. In fall 2013, three years after graduating from UCF, Rife became the co-founder and owner of Central Florida's East End Market, a food and culture hub consisting of 11 different shops with one shared emphasis on local business.
"That documentary film about eating locally and the word locavore is what set me on the path to meeting all the people that it took to create East End," Rife said. "We visited a lot of public markets and saw a lot of places that had components of East End that we thought were really cool. Because of that word and that movement, I found other like-minded people that wanted to support the same thing."
Along the path to opening the East End Market, Rife met fellow alumna Gabby Lothrop, who would go on to co-found the market alongside Rife. In 2010, the two started the Winter Park Harvest Festival, an annual pop-up food festival that features local food producers and food entrepreneurs.
"For a couple of years, we brought together all of the local food producers together and finally realized there was a need for a much bigger gathering for people to come together throughout the year, [and] that's where the need for East End came from," said East End Market community director Heather Grove.
Rife, who has always had a passion for entrepreneurship, said he knew it could be difficult for entrepreneurs to start up in the traditional real estate market because many spaces are usually too large or too expensive to lease.
"Why not rent out a smaller space where, very quickly, you're going to know if the customers are interested or not," Rife said. "Our goal has always been to support small entrepreneurs so that Orlando can cultivate some really unique offerings that are not just one more franchise option."
In the nation's No. 1 tourist destination, the East End Market continues to be inspired by Central Florida's farmers and food artisans and welcomes local and transplant food producers and entrepreneurs to promote and support community involvement and business.
"There were all of these local [food] entrepreneurs in town that were looking for a home," Grove said. "We're really trying to build a stronger local food community in Orlando."
Eric Gutierrez is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter @atticus_adrift or email him at EricG@CentralFloridaFuture.com.