African-American businesses originated from the days of slavery before 1865. African-Americans have owned and operated virtually every type of business. From insurance companies to funeral parlors, barber and beauty shops and banks to magazines and record labels. One of the leading centers for Black businesses was Atlanta when in 1900 white businessmen reduced their contact with Black customers so Black entrepreneurs moved in to fill that void.
With that in mind, I traveled to Inglewood, California a predominantly Black neighborhood to get some modern day insights on Black businesses in America.
First up I spoke to Mr Jay Allen, a 50 year old businessman who’s opening day for his ice cream shop Jamz Creamery was Thursday August 15th. A beautiful pink painted store located at 231 E Manchester Blvd, Mr Allen said that he has been in business for the past three and a half years. He said that he COULD NOT get a loan from any of the banks so he had to work hard doing air conditioning jobs and save the approximately $50,000 the minimum requirement needed in today’s market to start a business. He’s now in the process of physically expanding the store.
When asked about the Chargers and Clippers stadiums moving to Inglewood he said “it would be very good for business but the fear of gentrification is out there. The best thing to do would be to get involved, not back away, catch the wave and hope for the best.”
A divorced father of an active 12 year old, he’s working towards a franchise some day which will be family friendly for the different communities.
At present he has two employees who work the evening shift and he’s open from Tuesdays to Sundays noon til 10 pm. Closed Mondays.
My next entrepreneur was Mr Eric Muhammad a 40 year old owner of A New You Barber and Beauty Salon.
Mr Muhammad has been in business for over 20 years but has been in the current location on Manchester Blvd next to Jamz Creamery for three years. He too said that he COULD NOT get a bank loan. “I always knew that the banks wouldn’t give me a loan so I worked hard and saved my money and 20 years ago it was $10,000 that was needed at the time.”
With the stadiums moving in he said it was good and bad. He liked the idea of more business coming in but he also believed that gentrification would come with the stadiums. When asked what can the mayor do to help and ensure more business for African-Americans, he basically had no faith in the mayor. “Gentrification will come with the stadiums but Blacks will have to bring in their own business. I don’t believe the mayor can do anything so basically we have to depend on ourselves and there are not many Black owned businesses to begin with.
He also said that Inglewood is centrally located and is close to downtown and the whites are moving in because the Blacks are selling to them. “The whites don’t want to be in the suburbs anymore because the city is centralized. If we were supporting the Black community instead of selling to the whites and moving to, say, Lancaster because it’s a few hundred thousand dollars cheaper we wouldn’t have this problem.” But still he’s hoping for the best.
A New You Barber and Beauty Salon is open seven days from 8am til 5pm. Someone is always in.
My third and last entrepreneur is known simply as Mama Sunshine of Mama Sunshines Treasures located at 124 S Market Street in the same neighborhood of the other two businesses. Her story is different.
She started from a grassroots level, selling from one basket to setting up a table in Leimert Park in California at the Sister Market Place on Degnan. She didn’t apply for bank loans but instead a special education teacher Mr Eddie Horton who knew her when she worked as a behavioral therapist believed in her and invested money in her business and they are business partners to this day.
When asked about the mayor doing more for African-American businesses she said “the mayor could help with funding and classes but we as a people have to learn to support each other.” She also said that the Asian stores have been there for a while but she wasn’t sure how long they would last.
I asked her about Leimert Park seeing that she knew that area quite well and she said “I want it to stay Afrocentric but the people who are buying up the property over there are not Afrocentric so we’ll have to see.” She went on to say that Market Street is designed for mom and pop stores and it would be nice to expand the businesses beyond that area.
Mama Sunshines Treasures is well known for her Mama’s Mud Whipp leave in hair conditioner and she does natural hair care by appointment. She also sells earrings and other trinkets. For hours of business call 323 387 7992.
On my way leaving Inglewood for the day I happened to stop and talk to a gentleman named Mr Dale Lanier a father of five boys. He too was glad for the business but feared gentrification. He also reminded me of the David and Goliath story which happened around 2008 when I was living in Los Angeles close to the border of Inglewood.
Wal-Mart was fighting desperately to open a super store in Inglewood but the mom and pop stores fought back valiantly arguing that Wal-Mart was going to run them out of business. After a long standoff Wal-Mart gave up and moved away. That is what unity does.
Black businesses are doing well in America but more can be done. Hopefully the banks will see this article and make the extra effort to lend to African-Americans so that we can all get a share of the pie.
Dorrette G. Young
email@example.com or 562 682 5710 or 562 253 4491