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#4738: Cultural market unveiled in Miami (fwd)


Published Sunday, July 30, 2000, in the Miami Herald 
 Cultural market unveiled in Miami BY TERE FIGUERAS 

 Armed with trays of glittering bangles and pans of steaming pork, more
than a dozen vendors bustled into a Little Haiti parking lot -- once a
weed-choked bastion of prostitutes and drug dealers -- for Saturday's
opening of the 79th Street Creole Market. The weekly open-air market at
130 NE 79th St. -- also called the Mache Kreyol -- is the latest salvo
in the battle to revitalize an area plagued by crime and lack of
 opportunity, said Leonie Hermantin, executive director of Haitian
American Foundation, which owns and operates the new shopping areas.
 ``This is a blessing,'' said Hermantin, weaving through tents filled
with intricate sandalwood boxes and incense. ``People want to create
their own wealth, to uplift the community. But without the skills, the
money, the language, what can they do?'' The foundation, which acquired
the property more than two years ago, hopes the Mache Kreyol will allow
would-be entrepreneurs to showcase their island-flavored craft items
without the burden of bank loans and start-up costs. ``This used to be a
hobby,'' said Little Haiti resident Carol Rowe, tidying her
 display of potpourri and souvenirs form her native Turks and Caicos.
``Now my hope is to save enough to buy a shop around here, to start a
gift shop in Little Haiti and make enough to live on.'' The market's
first day also attracted a few established business owners willing to
 share their savvy with novices such as Rowe. Ernst Vilson, who picks up
Haitian craft work on the island and sells it to South Florida
restaurants and hotels, said he advises artisans to blend ethnic craft
work with popular trends. ``Those wrought-iron candle pillars, you won't
see that in Haiti, but people here want them,'' said Vilson, who hopes
the Mache Kreyol will attract buyers from such stores as Bloomingdales
and Burdines. ``And these wind chimes, too. Very South Florida.''
 The Haitian American Foundation plans eventually to build a $2 million
cultural complex -- complete with a performing arts center, public
gardens and office space -- with a permanent marketplace in the
courtyard. Hermantin dismisses comparisons between the Mache Kreyol and
another ambitious market designed to boost Little Haiti -- the ill-fated
Caribbean Market, built at 5927 NE Second Ave. with $1.2 million in
public funds. The market, saddled by mismanagement and a frequent prey
to crime and vandals, was sold to the city at a foreclosure sale for
$100. ``The problem with the Caribbean Market was that they got into
debt from the very beginning,'' she said. ``So the vendors couldn't even
afford the rent. Plus, they marketed solely to tourists. This will be a
place for everybody.'' With only $100,000 in grants and donations in
hand, Hermantin said the foundation will keep the Mache Kreyol simple --
a few tents and a sound stage -- and out of debt. But Hermantin is
confident that partnerships with local business and civic groups
 will let the Mache Kreyol flourish. ``It's an experiment now. If we
want to bring in performers and vendors, we have to prove it can work.
We have all the potential in the world, now we have to make it happen.''
The 79th Street Creole Market is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each Saturday
and Sunday. For more information on vendor fees and donations, call