“Businesses at the mall across the street are shutting down and a lot of businesses are moving away,” said Kristen German, a co-founder of Love Waisted. “So seeing this (market) here makes me want to support it and participate in it.”
Her company, which sells homemade bead jewelry and candles, was among dozens of vendors that populated the parking lot during the New Black Wall Street Market’s dedication and outdoor festival event Saturday. Several elected officials spoke about the importance of promoting Black entrepreneurs on the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, when a white mob burned down the Black Wall Street business district in Oklahoma and left up to 300 people dead.
“We’re not celebrating the death. We’re celebrating the rebirth,” Stonecrest Councilman Rob Turner said.
Philanthropist and businessman Lecester “Bill” Allen, the owner and developer of the New Black Wall Street Market, said he envisions the property becoming a thriving marketplace comparable to Ponce City Market or Krog Street Market. However, instead of locating his development in Atlanta, he chose Stonecrest, which is about 93% African American, to become the market’s home.
“We just think in a predominantly African American community, the predominance needs to reflect not just the people who live there but the business ownership as well,” Allen said.
The space, which is still undergoing construction and painting, is designed to feel like Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It’ll have roughly 120 spaces available for rent, and spots are already carved out for a grocery store, jazz club, food court and art gallery.
The endeavor is an extension of the Allen Entrepreneurial Institute, a business incubator that provides education and support for minorities. Matt Hampton, Allen’s spokesman, said roughly 300 people have shown interest in participating in the market, whether that be leasing space, becoming a vendor or selling products online.
“Not everybody necessarily needs a space,” Hampton said. “Some of them may be a part of the market, and they may be a vendor in our grocery story or they may be an artist that displays art in our gallery.”
Hampton said they haven’t begun leasing space in the building yet, but they expect to have it at 80% capacity by September’s grand opening. A date for the launch hasn’t been finalized, but he said they’re targeting Labor Day weekend.
“(This market) means economic empowerment for our community, more resources and new shops that were lacking in our community,” said Toni Favors, founder of the hot sauce company Toni’s Spicy Mama, a vendor at Saturday’s event. “It’ll help bring business back to Stonecrest.”
DeKalb Commissioner Larry Johnson said the project has the potential to kick off a trend of Black-owned business hubs, preserving the legacy of the 1921 massacre victims.
“You all are now on solemn ground,” he told Saturday’s crowd. “It’s been 100 years, and we should have been having ‘Black Wall Streets’ a long, long time ago, but this is our time.”
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