Chicago Plans to Celebrate Black Shop Friday to Boost Black-Owned Businesses

Black couple posing wearing Black t-shirts
Momentum Coffee and Coworking owners Nikki Bravo and Tracy Powell are seen Nov. 17, 2020, at their business in Chicago's South Loop. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune)

A civic initiative is encouraging Chicagoans to support Black-owned businesses on Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season, with a website promoting more than 500 local businesses.

The initiative, called “Black Shop Friday,” includes a directory of Black-owned businesses by the type of products sold and neighborhood. The website, www.BlackShopFriday.com, is scheduled to launch Nov. 24, three days before Black Friday.

The coronavirus pandemic has made 2020 challenging for all small businesses, but it’s been especially tough for Black-owned businesses, which tend to have more limited access to capital, said Karen Freeman-Wilson, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. The organization worked with the city and advertising agency O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul to develop the initiative.

Increased visibility and attracting new customers “could make the difference between a business keeping their doors open and having to make the difficult decision to close,” she said.

The city said the list aims to include all Chicago-area Black-owned businesses, and when the website launches there will be a way for people to submit additional listings.

Calls to support Black-owned businesses received greater attention this summer amid the focus on racial inequality in the wake of the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. More than 70 Chicago-area restaurants offered specials around Juneteenth, and again in October, during campaigns organized by Black People Eats, a website promoting Black-owned restaurants.

Where earlier initiatives tended to stay within the Black community, “Black Shop Friday” aims to have a broader reach and make it easy for people who are interested in supporting Black-owned businesses to do so, Freeman-Wilson said.

“This time we are making a much wider appeal, and I think it will be well-received because I think there’s greater interest now given some of the occurrences of 2020,” she said.

One of the businesses featured, Momentum Coffee and Co-working, part of Ignite Technology and Innovation, launched during the pandemic. The South Loop shop is Ignite Technology and Innovation’s second co-working space and first coffee shop.

Nikki Bravo, executive director of Ignite Technology and Innovation, said she hopes the directory introduces the business to new customers.

“We hope they come because of this, but come back because they enjoy what we deliver,” she said.

Other businesses featured include Agriculture, a men’s clothing store in the Near North neighborhood; Roasted Leaf Cigar and Coffee Bar, in Englewood; Semicolon Bookstore in the Fulton River District; The Woodshop, an art gallery and custom frame shop in Chatham; Chicago Upholstery and Drapery in Rogers Park and Color Me Beauty Bar, in Beverly.

“I just thought it could be great exposure for the salon,” said Kimberly Buford, owner of Color Me Beauty Bar. “Something people don’t necessarily understand is we do have a lot of businesses in the community that go unnoticed.”

(SOURCE: TNS)

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