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6 mins read

Marché Rue Dix: A Brooklyn Concept Store With a Global Point of View

Marché Rue Dix is a unique concept store in Crown Heights, Brooklyn that combines vintage finds, artisanal products, and private label goods.

In order to create a store that reflects her love for vintage and connects Brooklyn to Senegal, founder Nilea Alexander expanded her original vision for Cafe Rue Dix, a Senegalese restaurant that she and her husband Lamine Diagne co-founded.

In this interview, we’ll explore how Nilea selects products for Marché Rue Dix, her tips for running a successful concept store, and the factors that have contributed to Marché Rue Dix’s longevity.

Marché Rue Dix
Nilea Alexander, Executive Creative Director + Partner of Rue Dix Lifestyle Brands

What was the inspiration behind Marche Rue Dix?

Originally we started off in 2013 with Cafe Rue Dix, a Senegalese restaurant and bar space in Crown Heights Brooklyn. But I always collected vintage in my home. I used to sell it from there and sell it at flea markets. I sold vintage for a really long time.

When the space next door to the cafe became available I was so excited! I’ve always wanted a store. I thought, ‘Oh it could be connected and I could tie it back to the restaurant and the two spaces could speak to each other.’ I thought it would be a great opportunity to mix my love for vintage and found goods with more experiential items that could tell a really strong story.

This led me to new levels of creativity and learnings around brand and concept development. I had to figure out what the package goods for the store would look like in terms of coffee and tea for example. Being inspired by my travels to Senegal, I thought, ‘What are some of the influences that I can tie in? How can I connect Brooklyn to Senegal? So it became a mix of “Nilea’s favorite things”, vintage, mixed with some artisanal clothing and jewelry imported from Senegal, coffee, tea, spices etc.

And now we’re all the way up to the DSS 2 JFK collections– these are full clothing and jewelry collections that I design and produce in Senegal. We’re really tying a bow around everything– creating a space where people can come and experience our connection to Senegal and beyond here in Brooklyn.

Marché Rue Dix

How do you decide what products to offer?

It’s all part of our natural evolution– we started off with vintage and then we continued to add in products that aligned with our broader concept of connecting Brooklyn to Senegal. This especially came about as I began to spend more time in Senegal. I just wanted to share whatever inspired me at the various times of my travels. I want people to experience this through the store, and the brand.

You’ve been in business for almost 10 years? What do you attribute that longevity to?

 I think it’s about growing with the customer and staying true to myself and ourselves as a brand. As I grow I’m inspired by different things and I try to remain true to that, with the thought that it will potentially inspire others.

You also have to be adaptable. The last 2, or 3 years have been dominated by Covid– that for me was a lesson in adaptability. All the things that affect you as a person, in turn, affect the people around you, which in turn affect what you’re selling and what you’re offering to people.

Most importantly the community is a major part of our longevity! The people that support us and want to be a part of what we are doing. they feel that our brand is important to them, and they supported us because they wanted us to continue to be around post-pandemic.

Marché Rue Dix

What advice do you have for other concept store owners?

You have to do what feels right to you as opposed to what everybody else is doing. And you have to believe in that. You have to be agile enough to be able to pivot while still remaining true to your global vision.

I don’t try to follow any specific calendar or any rules that have been set forth by the industry simply because I’m a small store and I get to create and drive that concept. I do what feels good to me.

It really is about having a point of view– that’s why it’s called a concept store. You have to have an idea of what that point of view is and go from there. At any point, you can turn a corner and go down a different path and as long as you do it in an authentic way, your clientele will move with you.

by Tony O. Lawson

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4 mins read

Farmers Market on Wheels Brings Fresh Produce to Brooklyn Food Deserts

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and The Campaign Against Hunger, joined by Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuels, presented on Wednesday the “Fresh Vibes Mobile Market,” a retrofitted RV that will bring affordable produce, cooking and nutrition workshops combined with social services to underserved Brooklyn neighborhoods. 

Brooklyn Food Deserts
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams announced on Wednesday at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center. Photo credit: Office of Brooklyn Borough Eric Adams.

The initiative kicked off at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in East Flatbush, a community facing some of the highest levels of food insecurity in Brooklyn.

“Hippocrates said to ‘let food be thy medicine,’” said Adams. “The ‘Fresh Vibes Market’ is a vehicle for change, a fresh approach to combating diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity and other chronic illnesses that are preventable and reversible through dietary changes. This RV will help us navigate Brooklynites in need through the challenges of accessing some of the basic services that are just in arms’ reach.”

The mobile unit will make three stops per day, five days a week to offer below-market price produce grown locally by TCAH and will accept benefit programs such as Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT); Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), as well as Women, Infants and Children (WIC). 

Equipped with a cooktop and refrigeration, produce storage bins, a classroom and a benefits access area, the RV will be staffed with a chef-educator, an outreach worker and a SNAP specialist to offer cooking demonstration and workshops, as well as SNAP screenings, job referral services and even fitness classes.

The “Fresh Vibes Market” targets the most underserved Brooklynites including the elderly, new mothers, children, students, NYCHA residents and undocumented immigrants, allowing TCAH further expand its mission to increase access to healthy foods in high-need areas.

“TCAH’s core mission is to empower our neighbors to lead healthier, more productive and self-sufficient lives by increasing their access to nutritious food and related resources,” said Dr. Samuels, founder and executive director of TCAH. “Unlike other emergency feeding programs, our primary goal for this vehicle is to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by engaging families to make healthier eating choices and to introduce measures that can make a dent in high levels of chronic disease.”

(L-r:) Councilmember Ampry-Samuel, BP Adams and TCAH Executive Director Dr. Samuels on board the Fresh Vibes Market RV. Photo credit: CM Ampry-Samuel/ Twitter.

The launch of the mobile market also marks the beginning of numerous outreach campaigns, developed by TCAH in partnership with Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, to eliminate barriers to food access and social services in the community, officials announced. 

“We know that improving access to healthy foods and needed social services are key to one’s overall health,” said Enid Dillard, director of marketing and public affairs at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center. “We look forward to growing this partnership and impacting the lives of those who are food insecure within our communities.”


Source: BK Reader

14 mins read

Cannabis Conference at Emmanuel Baptist Calls for #EquityDayOne

It was late spring 2018 in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, not far from Biggie’s old stomping ground, when Emmanuel Baptist church hosted a free financial empowerment workshop called Exodus: Exiting Egypt. The all day seminar was well attended by members of the congregation and featured panels on general topics like debt relief and estate planning.

What would set this event apart from others likely to be held at churches around the country with a vested interest in their community base were two unexpected workshops: Understanding Bitcoin, and The Business of Cannabis.

Being a member of EBC, I was amazed to discover that I could explore both topics of interest at my home church in a completely judgment-free zone, and decided to attend. I understood that these just were not your average subjects among Black churchgoers, and particularly not discussed at the house of the Lord. Or so I thought!

Source: Brewers Association, Wine Institute, Fortune,, Statista and Euromonitor Note: Unless otherwise noted, comparable industry figures are for 2014

I’ll be honest. Part of my motivation was to attend just to see who else would be in the room. And considering the handful of people who sat around the table listening to Gia Morón, Executive Vice President of Women Grow, it didn’t really dawn on me that eight months later her organization would collaborate with Emmanuel to create the first ever church-hosted Business of Cannabis Conference.

So how did all of this come about, anyway? Ten minutes into that first low-key workshop, Reverend Anthony L. Trufant, better known as Rev., sauntered into the room to all of our amazement, and sat down to join the discussion. With great joy, he and Gia recounted a chance meeting, one that both believed was orchestrated by the hand of God.

Months earlier, they both had arrived at Penn Station on the same train and decided to share an Uber back to Brooklyn. During that divine appointment, Rev. asked Ms. Morón what she’d been up to, completely unaware that her answer would lead to a destined partnership between his church and Women Grow.

“$105 million: The estimated annual sales tax revenue generated by medical marijuana dispensaries in California, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that supports legalization.”

Her countenance lit up as Gia explained her current role with the nationwide advocacy organization that supports women with connections to help them own and lead cannabis related businesses. Admittedly, she was a little apprehensive, sharing the details of a perceived controversial, if not taboo, choice of profession.

But Gia’s conviction for and commitment to dismantling what she felt were distorted, negative imaging and factually inaccurate beliefs related to cannabis, across the board, led her to share her testimony with Reverend Trufant.

It was the passion in her words, her keen fact-based knowledge, and her personal experience that convinced Rev. that Emmanuel would not only benefit from, but welcome her message as a cannabis evangelist. Taking a risk, to Gia’s surprise, he invited her to speak at the financial empowerment workshop months later.

From that chance meeting, and two small breakout sessions up on the second floor of the church, the vision for The Business of Cannabis Conference was established. And what has come to fruition nearly a year later is a cannabis event of great proportion, never before seen within the confines of a religious institution.

Certainly not the Black Baptist church. But unlike the meeting in June, this event emerged as a hot ticket item, selling out weeks in advance to attendees with varying levels of interest in cannabis from across the country.

“$134.6 million: The amount of estimated tax revenue Maryland would earn every year if it legalized and regulated marijuana, according to a 2014 estimate from the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.”

Very little was announced beforehand of what to expect beyond the workshop titles to register for during the week leading into the conference. The panels included: Acquiring Cultivation or Dispensary Licenses; Ancillary Businesses/Careers in Cannabis; Integrative Cannabinoid Medicine by the Knox Family; Medical Benefits of Cannabis and Hemp; The Need for Equity Programs; Cannabis 101; Social Justice and Policy Reform; Destigmatizing Cannabis; Parenting and Cannabis: Learning Together; Healing with Hemp, CBD and Cannabis: topicals, vapes, edibles, and more; Types of Businesses in Cannabis; and, Networks and Industry Conferences in Cannabis.

In addition to these twelve breakouts, there were five Q&A rooms where attendees could pop in and speak with professionals from the industry, which included: What is Unaccredited Investing?, How to Enter the Cannabis Industry, Questions About Legalization of Cannabis, Ask the Medical and Science Professionals, and, Opportunities for Women in Cannabis.

Each panel included POC and women entrepreneurs, attorneys and advocates, dispensary owners and growers, medical doctors and researchers, business analysts, public relations professionals, and content creators. Several cannabis advocacy and media groups from coast to coast contributed to panels including Estrohaze, Cannaclusive, MJM Strategies, Cannagather, and the Minority Cannabis Business Association.

A common thread among the speakers was that each one managed to take their prior work experiences and parlay that expertise into the cannabis industry. Moving throughout the day you could truly feel the essence of the mantra: Whatever YOU do, do it in cannabis!

As if the outpouring and overwhelming amount of information were not enough, the conference also welcomed a riveting keynote address from the CEO of Women Grow, Dr. Chanda Macias  on dispelling the myths of cannabis. Dr. Macias, who earned her Ph.D. from Howard University with a concentration in Cell Biology, evoked the passion of civil rights leaders as she beseeched the packed audience with her searing words. She implored us to take our rightful ownership in this fight for equity for people of color within the cannabis industry as legalization, from the state to the federal level, continues to take shape.

An overarching theme of the conference was the Social Justice component that points to why it has become an imperative to demand Equity Day One in cannabis legislation as the end of marijuana prohibition nears. Social Equity simply means reinvesting a portion of the newly generated capital from the legalized cannabis industry directly into Black and Latino communities.

These are the neighborhoods that were impacted by unprecedented marijuana arrests and convictions due to Nixon’s damaging War on Drugs campaign. Research studies and anecdotal knowledge have starkly proven how the War on Drugs targeted communities of color, grossly contributing to the United States having the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Because of this, advocates in the multibillion dollar industry are demanding that these very people are poised to stake their claim now that the same marijuana plant that locked up scores of men and women is being sold in their neighborhoods primarily by white-owned cannabis companies. “Do not miss this boat…,” Dr. Macias charged the audience, who responded in agreement.

Adding to the progressive conversation were remarks by New York State Attorney General, Letitia James; Congressman Hakeem Jeffries; Assistant Counsel to Governor Cuomo, Jason Starr; Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo; Senator Velmanette Montgomery; and, Brooklyn District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez.

Each representative acknowledged the need for deliberate goals and strategic policy planning on the part of advocates, lobbyists, constituents and elected officials to be on the right side of history by creating legislation with day one social equity as New York State approaches legalized recreational cannabis in 2019.

Lobbyists also distributed form letters urging attendees to be a part of the political process by contacting their Senators and Representatives in Albany so that they are fully aware of the demand for Equity Day One.

As the reverend, Anthony Trufant, thanked Gia Morón’s and his own staff for working so tirelessly around the clock to pull off this crowning achievement, particularly during Black History Month, you couldn’t help but feel how monumental and historic this day was.

Revolutionary in his own right, Trufant is a Morehouse College educated faith-based visionary with a commitment to moral and social justice, which is why he was entrusted with this mission to help bridge the gap between the cannabis community and the church, despite initial pushback from some of EBC’s established members.

When both he and Dr. Chanda prayed from the pulpit, there was a sincere and humbled thanksgiving each expressed to God for the many health and wellness benefits of the cannabis plant. “We thank you for reminding us that You have already placed on the planet resources that can help us to ease pain, resources that will enable us to move forward as a community, and to provide economic opportunities.

We pray, oh God, that you will enable us in the justice work, to join our Brooklyn DA and our Attorney General for the State of New York, as well as our legislature and governor as they deal with legislation that is pending. May we, the citizens, give them the support and the backing that they need to take this courageous step. And finally, God, we pray for men and women, boys and girls who are in great pain today.

We pray that they will experience some degree of relief, that they will have an opportunity to be able to partake of that which you’ve planted so that the pain will be eased for them. Oh God, as we go our respective ways, be with us. We ask this in the name of our God. Amen.”

– Contributed by Mai Perkins

Mai Perkins is Cali girl in a Bed Stuy world, with several blogs under her belt including and She is a contributing writer for the music publication, and has written for Relevant and Bust Magazine.

With an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, and an MA in International Affairs from The New School, she reps her beloved alma mater, Howard University, every chance she gets. As a poet and a non-fiction writer, she has just published her first manuscript, The Walking Nerve-Ending, available now on Amazon & Kindle.

Insta: @flymai16

Twitter: @flymai on Twitter

9 mins read

New Black Owned Urgent Care Is Ready to Serve the Community

According to a recent report by the Urgent Care Association of America, the Urgent Care industry is valued at $18 billion and is growing.

Black Owned Urgent Care in Brooklyn

This is a great opportunity for medical professionals/ entrepreneurs to provide much needed healthcare alternatives to the community while building a healthcare business.

Two medical professional who plan to do so are Dr. Tamara Moise and certified Physician Assistant, Wadson Fils, co founders of Big Apple Urgent Care, one of the few Black owned urgent care centers in the country and the first in Brooklyn.

The fully renovated medical center features six exam rooms, state-of-the-art equipment including an on-site x-ray, and a team of multilingual healthcare professionals fluent in Creole and Medical Spanish. Facilities such as this have the ability to appear all over the world and medical equipment is needed to help patients when they come in, somewhere like Bosshard Medical in Sydney, Australia does their best to help patients who are in need of medical equipment to use within home care.

What inspired you to start Big Apple Urgent Care?

I am an emergency room doctor who has worked in multiple ERs in underserved communities in New Jersey and Brooklyn, and my co-founder, Wadson Fils, is a physician assistant who has worked in some of the busiest emergency rooms in New York City.

Dr. Tamara Moise DO

While the work was rewarding, we found that many of the ER patients were there for non-emergency issues. When you’re in a community with limited availability to healthcare providers, you often have no choice but to go to the ER.

Wadson Fils, PA-C

I realized that providing community-focused, personalized care to areas as diverse as East Flatbush is sorely needed. I am the daughter of Haitian immigrants, and I understand that having a doctor who looks like you and understands your culture makes the experience more comfortable.

We’re also seeing more and more research that shows that having greater diversity in healthcare leads to better health outcomes in communities of color.

How do you ensure your organization is keeping up with the continual advances in medical technology?

We are committed to innovation because it improves health outcomes. We are active members of the Urgent Care Association (UCA), and we attend UCA workshops, which covers current trends in medicine and details how to maintain a modern facility. Additionally, Wadson is a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants and regularly attends their workshops, which are also focused on new innovations and the latest medical research.

What do you attribute the rapid growth of the Urgent care industry to?

Around the country, there have been a number of recent hospital closures. In New York City, 16 hospitals have closed since 2003 — 4 in Brooklyn alone. Additionally, in many communities, there is a shortage of primary care providers.

In East Flatbush, where we are located, people who need care have limited options given the ever-decreasing number of emergency rooms and primary care doctors who have to deal with less and less capacity to accommodate patients in a timely manner.

These dynamics are contributing to the growth of the urgent care industry. Moreover, corporate interests are recognizing these trends as business opportunities, which is why an increasing number of these new centers are corporate owned. We pride ourselves on being an independent physician and clinician-owned facility where the interests of the patients and the community come first.

What do you feel will be your keys to success as a business?

Our motto is “Be Heard. Be Helped. Be Healthy.” and we make sure that we adhere to this philosophy at every step of the patient’s experience with us. We know for many patients, visiting the doctor can be a stressful experience, and that many leave feeling their concerns weren’t fully acknowledged.

It is our goal that every patient that comes in is treated with care and respect in the midst of what can be overwhelming circumstances. I’m confident that a commitment to simply listening to people’s needs and making sure they understand that they’ve been heard will prove to be a successful business model.

In East Flatbush, we see ourselves as a neighbor to the community and the greater Brooklyn area with our focus specifically on the needs of residents. Our staff of medical professionals are multilingual—fluent in Creole and Medical Spanish—and, along with our state-of-the-art facility, are equipped to handle all kinds of medical needs such as employment physicals, minor illness and injury, immunizations, x-rays, lab work, and more.

We are a fully accredited urgent care facility and we’re here to meet this community’s needs. We’re open 7 days a week and most holidays for appointments and walk-ins and are here for patients who have an urgent medical need and can’t get an appointment to see their primary care doctor. We also accept multiple insurance plans, and we offer affordable healthcare services for those who are uninsured.

How do you both compliment each other business-wise?

We have a similar mindset and values. We believe that the best way to succeed as an urgent care facility is to connect with the community. If you fail to connect with patients in a meaningful and personalized way you won’t get far.

Wadson and I both understand the cultural nuances and dynamics of the community that we serve, which allows us to establish that connection early on.

We both come from a West Indian background that reflects the residents of East Flatbush and neighboring communities. We also share a commitment to addressing the persistent health disparities that exist in communities of color, not just through treatment but also through education.

When a patient comes in, we remind them that healthcare starts in the home, and we advise them on how they can lead a healthier lifestyle. We also hold a variety of wellness services and health fairs that are open to the community.

Our patients are hardworking. Many of them work 2 and 3 jobs, and they often leave their neighborhood to go to a doctor in Manhattan because of the condition of some of the medical facilities in their own community.

Our center is a brand new, fully renovated facility with state-of-the-art medical equipment because we want our patients to feel like they’re being treated in a medical facility in SoHo. We don’t think that patients should have to leave their neighborhood to receive high-quality care in a clean, thoughtfully maintained center.

Where do you see the business 5 years from now?

In 5 years, we expect that we will still be serving the East Flatbush community as a state-of-the-art health center. We would also like to open 2 to 3 more facilities in underserved areas around New York City.


-Tony O. Lawson

Visit Big Apple Urgent Care at 3805 Church Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11203 (between 38th and 39th Streets)

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16 mins read

Three Black Business Owners, facing Gentrification, explain how to Thrive in NYC

Almost 20 years ago, Janifer Wilson noticed that Harlem’s bookstores were disappearing one by one, something she couldn’t stand as a woman dedicated to preserving African-American culture and history.

She decided to launch her own, and rented a space on the ground floor of her apartment building that would become a community hub for literature, art and culture.

Her shop, Sisters Uptown Bookstore, is becoming something of a rarity as bookstores in general face stiff competition from online sellers like, but the overall number of black-owned businesses is falling, too, according to a 2017 report by Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office.

From 2007 to 2012, gentrification helped shutter many black-owned businesses, the study says. Whereas in 2007, African-Americans owned 13 percent of all businesses in the Bronx and 5 percent in Queens, they owned 6 percent and 3 percent, respectively, in 2012, the report says. New York City is one of only three large cities to see a decline even though the number of black-owned businesses across the nation actually grew by 2.4 percent in that time period.

With August designated as National Black Business Month — in an effort to bolster the black business community with support — we spoke with African-American entrepreneurs about how they are surviving in New York City.

Here are some of their lessons:

Be passionate

Running a business is challenging and if you’re not in love with what you’re doing, it may be impossible to last.

When Wilson was on the verge of opening Sisters Uptown Bookstore, people told her outright “you’re not going to make it because black people don’t read,” she told amNewYork.

Janifer P. Wilson (R) Owner Sister’s Uptown Bookstore

She faced that negativity as well as the realization that a rising cost of living wouldn’t leave her shop very profitable because it was the realization of a dream. She looked for ways to cut costs at home and in the business, including switching energy provider, and found that lots of money can be saved by switching. If you are struggling financially in terms of your business or for anything within the home, you could look into something like direct payday loans lender to help you out in this situation and to make life a little easier. Financial hardships can put a lot of strain on people, so it is always a positive when you find that right source of help.

You too can compare business gas prices online and save some money for your business and home.

“This is a passion of love,” the 65-year-old said. “It is a must. A lot of people want to have a business, but what I found is that it has to be a purpose. The business you open may or may not yield an enormous amount of money. My word to folks is to find out what your purpose is and choose that kind of business. It’s a challenging journey but it’s worth it.”

Sisters Uptown Bookstore

In Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Omar Thorpe, 43, runs an ice cream shop called Creme and Cocoa Creamery with his wife, and it’s been a wild ride — literally. After rebranding his cafe to an ice cream shop, Thorpe bought a bicycle cart and rode it from that neighborhood all the way to Manhattan’s Fulton Market two weeks ago in the pouring rain.

black business owners
Creme & Cocoa Owners: Omar Thorpe and Astrid Thorpe

“You’ve gotta love it to actually continue,” he said. “Everything has adversity. Sometimes I’m second-guessed because of who I am and sometimes I don’t get community support because the new business can be seen as a symbol of change [in a gentrifying neighborhood].”

black business owners
Omar Thorpe on the bicycle cart for Creme and Cocoa Creamery. Photo Credit: Jenny Baily

Crown Heights’ Rituals and Ceremony owner Sarah Williams, who opened her lifestyle and home goods shop in November 2017, said it was very difficult to branch out on her own to open a business, especially because she had to learn as she went along, but she encourages others not to give up when they’re facing adversity.

Sarah Williams’ , Owner – Rituals and Ceremony

“It’s tough navigating and figuring everything out,” she said. “I took my life savings and put it into this space. It was a matter of stepping out, adventuring and doing.”

She said sometimes families can place expectations on youth to become a doctor or lawyer, but “let that go and be on your own,” she said.

Rituals and Ceremony

“It’s a big step and a tough step,” she added. “Even if you don’t have any blueprints, let those people know you have the desire to push through and go for it. Somehow the universe always provides — whether it’s through someone suggesting something or lending a helping hand.”

Be community-minded and pay attention

Wilson has made her bookstore all about community, and it has sustained her.

Not only does Sisters Uptown Bookstore sell literature, but it acts as a hub for artists, poets, avid readers and others who need a space to share in the community.

“I’m housing and presenting my culture so folks who come in back of me would be able to connect to that and not have the same sense of feeling invisible,” she said.

Growing up in southwest Georgia, she did not see depictions of people who looked like her in the literature she was reading. After moving to Harlem with her father, she was finally able to connect with her heritage and made it her mission to help others do that, as well.

“I exude my love of people and light in this community and that’s sustainability — it’s why I’ve lasted this long,” she said.

Williams noticed that the neighborhood was missing a shop dedicated to self-care and wanted to bring that to those around her.

“There really wasn’t a space like this to go to,” she said. “Everything was in Manhattan or there were shops but they had a different feel aesthetically. It’s been well-received. At first when we were opening, people walking in would say the store doesn’t look like it belongs and ask if it is a black-owned business. When I say ‘yes,’ they get excited.”

Think creatively

Thorpe’s business has undergone multiple iterations. He and his wife Astrid have transformed the long-standing family grocery store into a cafe and then rebranded it as an ice cream shop. Now, the duo are developing packaged pints that they want to get into stores by mid-August.

“This is an evolution of the previous business that was there 30 plus years,” he said. “This is the 2.0 version of what we had. We’re doing this because of the rapidly changing neighborhood.”

With change comes criticism, of course, but the Thorpes have made it a point to not stick to their comfort zone by expanding their branding and approach, he added.

Like them, Wilson’s bookstore changed over time. When she realized book business revenue was limited, she decided to open the space to the community to also bring in foot traffic.

“I find that you have to stay creative,” she said. “They tell you to do a business plan, but none of that stuff actually works. It’s a day at a time and I’ve had to co-create with the universe.”

Now with a juice bar, an African artifact market/gift gallery, poetry workshops, two book clubs, sound meditation classes, storytelling for children, art exhibits and an open mic night every month, the space has become a huge resource for people and “allows us to pay our bills,” Wilson said.

“People should think outside of the box because the box won’t yield the freedom you need to sustain it,” she added. “You need to be creative.”

Thorpe’ also encouraged people to get creative online to increase awareness of their brand and shop. They use Google campaigns to promote their business. This lets them grow as more people find their brand. They use a script that Put your Google Ads campaigns on autopilot so they don’t need to put much effort in. They know that it is working to build their business in the background while they work.

Support others

The African-American community has “an overt and obvious” dedication to community, according to Cynthia Gordy Giwa, a former journalist turned director of marketing who runs Black Owned Brooklyn with fashion exec Glenn Alan. The website and Instagram account acts as a guide to black-owned and Brooklyn-based brands and the entrepreneurs who run them.

The Instagram-centric guide (@blackownedbklyn) features portraits of the business owners (taken by Alan) with snippets of interviews they have done — and it’s growing.

From Wine-O in Bed-Stuy to Breukelen Coffee House and so many others, the project is a delight to scroll through with entrepreneurs looking directly at the camera while in their shops.

“We started as an online resource that we felt was missing from the internet,” Gordy Giwa said. “It’s hyperlocal service journalism. There were places that were being overlooked and we started Black Owned Brooklyn so we could celebrate the creativity, the ingenuity and excellence of black businesses that people don’t know about but should know about and make it easier to support them.”

The purpose is really threefold. Black Owned Brooklyn gives visibility to businesses that are in the midst of gentrifying neighborhoods, helps people make conscious decisions to support them and thus the community, and offers a different perspective of the black experience, Alan and Gordy Giwa say.

“I think black people are interested in putting their dollars toward black businesses, which in turn will have a communitywide impact — there’s a likelihood their dollars are going back into the community,” Alan said. “It’s about supporting the community around you and the large part of the community of business owners in Brooklyn is black.”

In addition, more and more white people are reading Black Owned Brooklyn, Gordy Giwa said.

“They are thinking critically about the impact of their presence in the waves of gentrification occurring in the borough and wanting to make conscious decisions about where they’re shopping.”

And portraying images of blackness, unity and entrepreneurship offers an alternative narrative to the black experience, Alan added.

“The portraits are really important,” Gordy Giwa added. “I think they’re showing the diversity of black people — showing different genders, ages, cultural backgrounds and people from the LGBTQ community — all types, standing proudly, looking directly at the camera looking amazing.”

Having the support of the community has especially touched Williams at Rituals and Ceremony. Customers have told her they’re happy to see a young, black person with her own business. Plus, they’ve even offered a hand in helping her.

“This community is really supportive — they tell me ‘I have an accountant’ and have advice to share that I can utilize,” she said. “It’s important to speak verbally and with your dollars as well by continuing to support black businesses. It’s good to have diversity in any field or genre and good to have a different perspective and point of view. We need to keep these spaces and businesses open.”

Source: AMNewYork

7 mins read

Celsious is the Most Stylish and Eco Friendly Laundrymat You’ve Ever Seen

Have you ever sipped organic coffee in a beautifully designed environment while your clothes washed and dried in  energy-efficient machines? No? Well, Celsious is here to change that and turn laundry day into a pleasurable and fulfilling experience.

We chatted with the founders, siblings Corinna and Theresa Williams. This is what they had to say.

Theresa (L) and CorinnaWilliams

You both have backgrounds in fashion. What inspired you to start a laundromat? 

Corinna: We wanted to get our fashion cared for in the best and most sustainable way possible. I moved to New York from Germany about five years ago. Having lived in Europe all my life, I was used to always having a washing machine in my apartment.

Even the most basic of washers there feature at least five different washing programs for different types of garments – from delicates to wool to heavy soiled. Living in the city was really the first time I had to frequent a laundromat. And it was not a pleasant experience.

Photo: Anna Rose

The place on the corner of my Upper East Side apartment was grimy, there were two wobbly chairs for seating and ghastly lighting. What’s more, my white linens and towels accumulated a nasty grayish-brown tint. I went looking for better options, until I reached my first “ah-hah” moment: there were none!

Second “ah-hah” moment: My then-roommate and French friend explaining to me how the only way to possibly get her whites completely white was to fly them back to Europe and give them a good wash there.

A task as simple as getting and keeping a white sheet bright should not require intercontinental airfare, I thought. That’s how the idea of Celsious was born.

Photo: Anna Rose

Why is eco-consciousness important to you? 

Theresa: It is how we were raised and has always been a part of our lifestyle. There was absolutely no question that we would run our business, which is so much an extension of our lifestyles, in an eco-conscious way.

How did you raise the capital to start the business? 

Corinna: We were fortunate enough to raise capital through our friends and family!

What differentiates CELSIOUS from the average laundromat?

Theresa: There is nothing like Celsious yet. And we’re talking about New York here – the place where literally everyone has tried to open everything under the sun.

Yet a clean laundromat that is aesthetically pleasing, efficient yet eco-friendly and offers added amenities like a coffee bar has not been done.

But it’s about time! New Yorkers have long understood the importance of being conscious of what they put in their bodies in terms of food, what they put on their bodies in the form of cosmetics.

Laundry is just a natural extension, which not many people are aware of yet. Clothes live on your skin, which is the bodies’ largest organ. It absorbs everything. The “wellness aspect” aside: Which New Yorker doesn’t like to economize time?

We’ve worked very hard with our fantastic consultants to build Celsious into the fastest laundromat in the city. Plus, in the short time (15min for our fastest wash, 16min in the dryer) it takes for you to get your laundry washed and dried, you can meet some friends for a cup of coffee – at the same spot.

Photo: Anna Rose

What is one of the most gratifying things about what you do? What is the most challenging? 

Corinna: The most gratifying thing about this is customers’ positive feedback. There is nothing better than hearing that we’ve created value for the community, that we’ve improved someone’s life significantly by turning a dreaded task into the most enjoyable part of their day.

Recently, we’ve had a new customer who suffers from allergies cry happy tears after having discovered us and the fact that we offer FREE unscented bio-degradable non-toxic detergent!

Theresa: The most challenging aspect is definitely juggling the demands of running a brick and mortar location seven days a week (7am to midnight!), while managing a growing team, strategizing on how to build the business and brand – whilst maintaining partnerships, friendships and trying to fit in some self-care.

Where do you see the business in 5 years? 

Theresa: We want to bring Celsious many more NYC neighborhoods.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs? 

Corinna: Don’t ever think it is going to be easy! Every step of the way will be challenging in new ways. A good idea is literally only a tiny fraction of what makes a business: perseverance and the grind is the rest! If you’re a firm believer in your power and abilities, don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t succeed.


To celebrate their six month anniversary, Celsious is offering FREE washes and dries on June 1-3!

They are located at  115 North 7th St Brooklyn, NY 11211

– Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)


3 mins read

Couples Inc. : Natural Beauty Products Made in NY, Courtesy of Talima and Allison

Limegreen is a Multi-Use Skincare company that produces natural products using vegan ingredients. Since Dove is cancelled and we’re here for non GMO everything, we had a chat with Talima Davis, one half of the dynamic duo behind the brand. This is what she had to say:

Limegreen Co-founders Allison Lamb (left) and Talima Davis (right)


SB:What inspired the creation of Limegreen?

TD: My best friend Tamara was diagnosed with liver cancer at the age of 27. It was extremely aggressive, and her doctor told her it was due to environmental conditions.

I could have just gone to the store and bought products for her, but I decided to try making them so that I knew the ingredients.

Making products turned into something I was passionate about. The same friend inspired the name for Limegreen,  I combined the nickname given to me by her and the theme of natural products – Lima + Green.

SB:How did you both meet?

TD: Allison and I met through mutual artist friends. We grew up literally five minutes away from each other, in the same neighborhood, our entire lives.

SB: Describe your individual personalities and explain how they come together to make the business work.

TD: Our personalities contribute to the success of the business in so many ways. I have such a social media and project manager brain (I was a production manager for 11 years before Limegreen) and Allison has the business and design brain (She was a creative director before Limegreen).

SB: What has been the most challenging part of your entrepreneurial journey so far? What is the most gratifying?

TD: The most challenging part is the constantly second guessing of our decisions. Figuring out what to focus on is also a big challenge.

The most gratifying part is meeting with customers who sincerely love our products and hearing from them how our values motivate them to look at their choices more closely with regard to sustainability, natural ingredients, etc.

SB: What is the most important thing your partner has taught you?

TD: The most important things that Allison has taught me are to hustle and take chances – she literally would eat through a wall.

SB: Where do you see your business in 5 years?

TD: I see Limegreen in your favorites boutiques, the hotel bathrooms your stay in and big box stores like Target and Wholefoods.

SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs? 

TD: My advice is not to plan every little detail of starting a business, the best thing to do is just to do it. See if people like your concept, because numbers on a paper cannot tell you if people really want what you’re trying to sell.

To learn more about Brooklyn Limegreen visit

IG: @thebusyafrican

4 mins read

Black Owned Businesses in Brooklyn You Should Know

Over the past decade, countless Black owned businesses in Brooklyn (and nationwide) have fallen victim to gentrification.

Rising rents and leases are forcing businesses to close. However, there are still many Black owned businesses and institutions that have weathered the storm and continue to provide great goods and services.

Black Owned Businesses in Brooklyn

The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) aims to serve as a conduit for African Diaspora forms of expression ranging from the visual and performing arts to film and television.

Black Owned Businesses Brooklyn

Calabar Imports is a trendy, specialty retail and gift store that offers home furnishings, unique crafted jewelry, fashion, and gifts sold at moderate prices.


Khamit Kinks is a natural hair care salon that specializes in natural hairstyles and maintaining healthy hair.


Akwaaba Mansion is a meticulously restored Italianate villa that features exquisite architectural details, including 14-foot ceilings and ornate fireplaces.


Adrian Fanus Grooming is a highly rated barbershop that tailors to each client’s grooming experience to maximize his/her own personal and unique sense of style.


From old-school haircut styles to the most current popular hairstyles, Brooklyn Master Barbershop focuses on providing high-quality service and customer satisfaction. 


BCakeNY is a custom cake studio dedicated to creating specialty cakes for every occasion. Owner & Cake Designer: Miriam Milord

La Caye offers authentic Haitian cuisine & inventive sangrias in an intimate, art-hung space with outdoor dining. 


The Crabby Shack is your destination for all things crabs! They dish up crab in full plates with sides, as well as in rolls, tacos & sliders. 10525846_868818223139365_263334174250857375_n

Bed-Vyne Brew Bar is a pub with reclaimed wood decor that serves draft microbrews & hosts DJs from Wednesday to Saturday. 


Brooklyn Bell is an ice cream shop that sells classic & seasonal flavors & other housemade sweets. 


Brooklyn Swirl is the first independently-owned frozen yogurt shop to serve the Brooklyn Community. They serve crepes & smoothies in bright modern digs with a patio & free WiFi. 


Bati is a traditional Ethiopian restaurant, located in the heart of Fort Greene, Brooklyn, dedicated to serving authentic delicacies that possess homemade quality flavors.


Jollof Restaurant is a West African eatery with colorful art-filled walls serving a variety of Senegalese and other West African dishes. 6_1440061230_joloff_restaurant
Joire’s Spa Studio is a beauty salon that offers different types of hair extensions, full body waxing, teeth whitening, and Henna tattooing.


Joshua Dwain Photography is an international wedding photography husband and wife team. 

Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy is a community-based arts and cultural organization dedicated to supporting the creative, educational, and vocational development of disadvantaged youth and families. 


Greedi Vegan is a vegan restaurant that offers fast-casual vegan soul food.

Cafe Rue Dix is a French and Senegalese cafe, restaurant, and bar located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Marche Ru Dix is a trendy concept store featuring a curated selection of vintage clothing, jewelry & home goods.

by Tony O. Lawson

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