Exactly one year ago today, the city of Detroit filed for the largest municipality bankruptcy in history and it’s current situation is less than “ideal”. While it is still plagued with pension cuts, widespread poverty, disparate health and violence statistics and a declining population, residents have expressed hope for the future thanks to greater investments in development, promises to improve city services and an ambitious plan to eliminate urban blight.
Though there will not be one particular hero to fix this city’s plight, positive attention should be given to those doing well in and uplifting the community. While the media highlights “cool places” or “nice restaurants” in the area, not much attention is given to one of the strong underlying factors that will assist in the city’s resurgence – the plethora of black small business owners providing for others while strengthening the economy.
Black Detroiters make up 83% of the city’s population, 32,000 of which own a business. Yet there is a glaring lack of coverage of the contributions and successes of these individuals in any stories on the area and feel highly excluded. Despite difficult times and financial hardships, many of these businesses have managed to keep their doors open for upwards of 20 years, a true testament to their necessity in the communities they serve.
Below is just a sample of some of these great businesses.
Hamilton Anderson Associates
20 years ago, Rainy Hamilton started an architecture and urban planning company right out of his home. Through his previous experience and hard work, he has been able to grow the company into a 50-person organization with multiple offices across America, including one right in Detroit’s Harmonie Park. HAA has been involved in a wide array of development projects in Detroit, including work on schools, community centers and even a light rail line that is currently being built.
Textures by Nefertiti
Nefertiti Harris started her business 13 years ago in what is now one of the city’s development hot spots – Cass Corridor. At the time, the area was far from the burgeoning neighborhood that it now is and was riddled with drugs and prostitution. Her salon focuses on natural hair and caring for women’s inner selves via spiritual readings and musings.
Detroit Vegan Soul
After watching loved ones and others in the black community struggle with diet-related illnesses, Erika Boyd and Kirsten Ussery-Boyd decided to leave their careers in other industries to open up a restaurant in the West Village part of Detroit. DVS serves soul food classics such as collard greens and mac and cheese, but with all vegan ingredients, thereby making their selection a healthy alternative to the more greasy and fatty originals.
Ali Sandifer Studio
Founded by husband Andre Sandifer and wife Abir Ali, ASS makes modern furniture with nicely camouflaged storage spaces out of sustainable domestic hardwoods. There are few minority-owned design studios in the country, so ASS prides itself on being one of the few pioneers and works to make the quality of their products top notch.
Thrift On The Avenue
Another husband and wife team, R. Christopher Prater and TaNisha Prater, moved to Detroit from their hometown of Atlanta and teamed up with Jessica Glen to open up shop in the city’s midtown area. Their boutique sells secondhand women’s clothing and donates 30% of the proceeds to Coalition of Temporary Shelter, a nearby residence for the homeless.
Sweet Potato Sensations
Sisters Jennifer and Cherise Thomas run SPS with their parents Jeff and Cassandra, who started the business in 1987. Their bakery offers this staple in the African American community in new and inventive ways in pies, ice creams, cheesecake, waffles and more.
A well-known club promoter in the 80s, David Humphries desired to add his own touch to the nightlife world and started Hair Wars as a way for stylists to show off their best work. Decades and miles of weave later, this showcase draws huge crowds and features some of the most outlandish and eye catching artistic designs that have ever been atop a head.
The Social Club Grooming Company
In 2012, after a few failed business plan attempts, Sebastian Jackson and his wife Gabrielle finally succeeded in opening the SCGC, constructed with recycled lumber from old Detroit homes. Jackson takes pride in the fact that barbershops historically serve as a black social hub and aims to recreate that experience for his customers.
Karen Brown opened her Eastern Market boutique on a strip more well-known for it’s meat suppliers than fashion outlets. She never wrote a business plan, but 13 years later proved that it wasn’t necessary as her store is still thriving, selling home goods, antiques and clothing. Brown takes a page out of her mother’s entrepreneurial book, as she has ran a successful flower shop in northwest Detroit since the 1980s.
The N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art
Using his past experience running other galleries, George N’Namdi opened his own nonprofit in 2010 in the Sugar Hill Arts district. The center includes exhibition spaces, indoor and outdoor performance spaces, a gift shop and a separate vegetarian restaurant. They pride themselves on showcasing top and up and coming Detroit artists, aiming to propel them into the national spotlight.
To view other great businesses, visit the Huffington Post article.