Black-Owned Brooklyn, run by the husband and wife duo Tayo Giwa and Cynthia Gordy Giwa, has been featuring businesses on their Instagram and online publication since 2018. The pandemic highlighted issues and inequalities that have long been present, and had an enormous impact on Black-owned businesses.
“The work that we do covering, interviewing, and featuring business owners and their businesses on Black-Owned Brooklyn is something we’ve been doing since 2018. A lot of what we were doing we just continued to do,” Tayo said. “Overlapping with [the pandemic] were the uprisings over police brutality, and there was a lot of focus on Black businesses. We definitely got some of that attention as well. From our perspective, we were happy for the businesses to get attention and for people to find this work and appreciate it. At the same time, though, for us, this is work that we’ve been doing. This wasn’t a trend for us. It was long-standing work that we’re going to continue doing even after the spotlight of media attention went away.”
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, 41% of Black-owned businesses closed due to COVID-19, compared with only 17% of non-white-owned businesses.
VH1, the pop-culture, celebrity, and reality TV network, approached Black-Owned Brooklyn about collaborating to highlight 20 Black-owned businesses across the borough as they get through the pandemic and its consequences.
The program awarded each business a check for $5,500 to go towards whatever they see fit.
Spiked Spin, an indoor cycling studio, is using the money to get new flooring and soundproof. Skal, the Bed-Stuy cafe, is using it to keep staff on board, and Creme & Cocoa Creamery, the ice cream shop, is buying new equipment to meet their increased demand, all of which they wouldn’t have been able to achieve without the help of the grant.
“The focus of the [VH1] campaign is for us to continue the storytelling that we always seek to do. Giving a voice to the business owner, telling the story in their own words,” Cynthia said. “We felt that one year removed from COVID would also be a good time to reflect on what they’ve actually been going through over the past year.”
The businesses are also being featured on Black-Owned Brooklyn’s Instagram account, and have received thousands of likes and lots of comments from neighbors and supporters.
The Crabby Shack, a Black and female owned seafood spot in Crown Heights, is one of the businesses being showcased.
They plan to use the money to further renovate their outdoor dining area, adding windows, umbrellas, and trees and flowers.
“Right now we still aren’t able to operate at 100% capacity, so outdoor seating is crucial for us,” Gwendolyn Woods, the co-owner of the Crabby Shack said.
“We absolutely needed this [grant money] to do that,” said Fifi Bell-Clanton, the other co-owner.
Other businesses include Daddy Green’s, Black Nile, Rituals + Ceremony, Browstress, and The Rogers Garden, with a full list and addresses below.
Ty Holloway, the owner of MILES Culture, said that the grant will go towards spring inventory, new graphics for apparel, and new local jewelry designers.
“I feel blessed to still be here. But I’m taking it week by week, really, and I’m living on credit,” Holloway said in a statement. “The idea of having to hustle and take on more risk is something I’m built for. I plan on being around.”
Almost all of the 20 featured businesses have been previously featured by Black-Owned Brooklyn.
“We’re in a community with hundreds of Black-owned businesses across Brooklyn from having done this work for the past few years. Some of [the ones we chose] are just people that we know from living in our community and walking down the street over the past year,” Cynthia said. “They all had different things going on.”
The whole program will be tied to the season premiere of the VH1 show Black Ink Crew, which highlights and follows a Black-owned tattoo parlor dynasty, as they open a new Brooklyn location.
Camera Ready Kutz, located at 73 Utica Avenue, between Michael Griffith and Dean streets.
Crabby Shack, located at 613 Franklin Avenue, between Bergen and Dean streets.
Crème & Cocoa Creamery, located at 1067 Nostrand Avenue, between Lefferts Avenue and Lincoln Road.
Black Nile, located at 592 Nostrand Avenue, between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street.
Browstress, located at 68 Jay Street, between Water and Front streets.
Byas & Leon, located at 404 Tompkins Avenue, between Jefferson Avenue and Hancock Street.
Bunton’s World Famous, located at 1005 Broadway, between Ditmas Street and Willoughby Avenue.
Daddy Green’s, located at 1552 Fulton Street, between Albany and Kingston avenues.
El Jeffe, located at 1483 Fulton Street, between Throop and Tompkins avenues.
Lakou Cafe, located at 195 Utica Avenue, between Park and Sterling places.
Les’ Blooms Floral, located at 65A Fenimore Street #1, between Flatbush and Bedford avenues.
MILES Culture, located at 717 Nostrand Avenue, between Park and Sterling places.
Photodom, located at 1717 Broadway #310, between Mofta and Cooper streets.
Rain Eatery, located at 1166 Nostrand Avenue, between Fenimore Street and Rutland Road.
Rituals + Ceremony, located at 717B Nostrand Avenue, between Park and Sterling places.
She’s Polished, located at 434 Hancock Street, between Marcus Garvey Boulevard and Lewis Avenue.
Skal, located at 373 Lewis Avenue, between Macon and MacDonough streets.
Spiked Spin, located at 1171 Fulton Street, between Spencer Place and Franklin Avenue.
The Fit In Bed-Stuy, located at 423 Marcus Garvey Boulevard, between Halsey and Macon streets.
The Rogers Garden, located at 708 Rogers Avenue, between Clarkson Avenue and Lenox Road.