These Black-owned businesses look to each other to survive coronavirus pandemic

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ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, August 14, 2020
Black-owned businesses support each other through pandemic
A group of small business owners along Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn is finding the support they need to survive the coronavirus pandemic in each other.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A group of small business owners along Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn is finding the support they need to survive the coronavirus pandemic in each other.

If you're looking for just the right home décor with a special Brooklyn vibe, no need to look any further than Bed-Stuy's Peace and Riot.

"I try to offer as many things as possible. I know there's a lot of holes in the market over here. We also source local makers, those items are the items that give the store some soul," owner Achiziam Maha-Sanchez said.

Maha-Sanchez is one of more than 30 Black business owners who've set up shop along Tompkins Avenue over the past decade.

"At the time I could tell it was completely underserved. There are so many people here who are at the top of their profession, but there are no services here," Bed-Vyne Wine & Spirits owner Michael Brooks said.

And they've found success in the neighborhood.

"This is a way for us to step up and have some ownership," Maha-Sanchez said.

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When Antoinette Burrows opened up the Sweet & Savory Cafe in 2014 she knew she wanted to stand out in her community and provide her customers with new food experiences.

But like every other business owner, they're treading through tough waters lately.

It's one thing to start a business, it's another to survive in a pandemic. Many business owners along Tompkins Avenue are relying on each other to get through this season.

A recent study by the Federal Reserve found that Black-owned businesses were twice as likely to not survive the pandemic.

New York City estimates that 85% of minority and women-owned businesses will not withstand the next six months.

But these business owners have adapted.

The Tompkins Avenue Merchant Association has been working with them to get loans from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

At Bed-Vyne Wine & Spirits they've doubled sales without letting a single customer inside.

And at Peace and Riot, the owners asked customers to buy gift cards when they couldn't open their doors.

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Customers stepped up, but so did a nearby black restaurant owner.

"She called me and said 'we have space. We are not allowed to have people dine in the café. Would you like to come here and do a pop-up?'" Maha-Sanchez said.

And when the Black Lives Matter movement spread around the world, it turned into the boost many Black businesses so desperately needed at just at the right time.

"There were a number of lists that went out with Black-owned businesses and people decided, 'yes we are going to support.' We wound up on most of those lists and overnight we almost doubled our followers on Instagram. Orders started coming in really out of nowhere," Maha-Sanchez said.

"I think Tomkins is the heart and soul of Bed-Stuy as far as commerce goes," Brooks said.

And these business owners are determined to keep it that way, lifting each other up each step along the way.

"I think it's important to bring people along with you. My success is really nothing unless I'm bringing some people along with me," Maha-Sanchez said.


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