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Courtesy of Julian Cavazos

A Collective Effort

By John Hayden

If you visit downtown Wilton Manors at all, you’ve probably driven past the coolest shop around and not even realized it. Wilton Collective sits at the corner of 23rd Street and Wilton Drive, sporting a massive mural on one side of the building and huge display windows giving the world a peek into the treasures inside. 

The business is technically a consignment shop, but in reality, it is much, much more. The store is filled with work of local craftsmen, fun objet d’art, and one-of-a-kind jewelry. 

“Hence the name Wilton Collective,” owner Julian Cavazos said. “Because it’s a collection of individual artists.” 

This is the latest venture for his philanthropic organization, Julian’s Fountain of Youth (JFOY). The group works to empower and educate LGBTQA+ youth. Part of empowering and educating means giving some a job and a hands-on lesson in business. Young people, including many trans youths, staff the store.

Besides selling their works at Wilton Collective, artists work with the kids, mentoring them in whatever special talents they have to share. In addition to people selling their works, there are also a couple of independent businesses that call Wilton Collective home. Carvelle Bikes is Wilton Manors’ only bike shop, and is run by Carvelle Estriplet, a trans activist and bicycle savant. 

“The kids have been great,” she told OutClique. “They’re very engaging. I taught one of them how to change a flat [bicycle] tire so I can get more hands on.” 

One of the reasons Carvelle chose this place to open her shop was the opportunity to develop the next generation of LGBTQA+. 

“That was also the other selling point initially,” she said. “Promote LGBTQ youth in a positive light.”

Julians Fountain Of Youth
Courtesy of Julian Cavazos

Every square foot of space is used, even outside. Brian Varela runs Hot Box Fitness To Go, a mobile fitness center. The idea grew out of the pandemic, when gyms were closed or limited. Now, Varela holds some classes in the parking lot, and is glad to be part of Cavazos’ vision. 

“When I was starting my business I needed a place to host classes and have a central location,” he said. “Julian, without hesitation, invited me to his collection.”

Wilton Collective opened in December, 2020. Opening a new business during a pandemic may seem like an odd strategy, but Cavazos had been eyeing the space for a while. When opportunity knocked, he answered the door. The store has quickly become a community hub. 

Friday evenings, Wilton Collective has a cocktail hour with live entertainment by local musicians. This fall they have added Myrna’s Taco Tuesdays. 

“At 6:30PM we have a vendor who makes authentic Mexican blue tacos,” Cavazos said.

Myrna is a tragically funny, larger-than-life character Cavazos created for his web series that plays at an annual JFOY fundraiser, The Reverse Quinceanera. Now, her spirit will live throughout the year with her own spirited cocktail. 

“Myrna has her signature Myrnarita,” Cavazos said. “We worked with a mixologist from Hunters, making our own recipe.”

While the pandemic curtailed the amount of in-person activities JFOY could do in 2021, Cavazos says they’re planning for a big second year. 

“I’ve spent some time with our Board of Directors and with our volunteers talking about what 2022 is gonna look like. One Magical Weekend, Fort Lauderdale Youth Empowerment Retreat (FLYER), Camp Lightbulb, all these things I’m pushing for because things are going to get better. We’re totally moving forward.”

He is especially excited about FLYER. 

“It’s really cool. It’s four days of experiential learning. It’s all about looking inside. It’s all about being your true, authentic self.”

Wilton Collective’s inventory is constantly changing, but it’s mission to help South Florida’s LGBTQA+ youth is constant. You can visit the store at 2365 Wilton Drive.