By Stephenetta (isis) Harmon
The NCAA frenzy may have left town, but shoppers can still take delight in the more than 20 small Black-owned businesses selling their goods and services at Gaviidae Common in downtown Minneapolis.
The businesses are part of West Broadway Business & Area Coalition’s (WBBAC) Shop Northside partnership with Chameleon Consortium pop-up retail initiative. The Chameleon Consortium also partnered with Neka Creative and Impact Hub MSP to activate the shops, which take over the first and second floors at Gaviidae.
The Chameleon Shoppes are chock full of everything from African clothing and accessories and jewelry to beard oils, body butter, and art. They not only help bring to life vacant retail space in what should be a prime downtown location but also create affordable opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses to expand their reach and marketing efforts.
As a vendor, myself, they also offer an affordable opportunity to expand outreach efforts. Felicia Perry, WBBAC Business Resources Coordinator, said that was a primary goal in partnering.
“The opportunity for our clients to test out their products and services with a different market than they typically have in their own neighborhoods is huge,” said Perry. “We also get to show off how we show up in pop-ups to a different community — especially given the unique marketing strategies required to pull people into a place that we know was already struggling.”
Shop Northside has two retail shoppes on the ground floor, along with a salon and barber experience featuring such services as threading, mini makeup makeovers, a braid bar, microblading and haircuts.
Participating vendors include Tionna Dionne Fashion, Black Excellence, Bowtie Billionaire, Nature’s Syrup, TiAngy Designs, Bimpe Bata Footwear, Just Hair USA, We Wanna Rock, Body Love, Allure Cigars, Cald2Art and Christyle Closet.
The shops will remain open through the end of April. After that, Perry said WBBAC will continue its longstanding efforts to create small business opportunities for its clients.
“We’ve been doing this economic development work in different ways for a while now and we intend to continue to find creative ways to plug our business owners, artists and makers into economic opportunities as we discover them ourselves,” said Perry. This includes their monthly “Northside Business Lunch” — this month’s April 18 session is focused on “Retail Hustle” and tips for being a successful retail entrepreneur.
“It’s a great experience to be downtown,” said Crystal Lemar, owner of Christyle. “It’s exciting because I’ve always wanted to open up or have a boutique in downtown Minneapolis. So this is my opportunity to live out my dream for the month of April.”
Perry added that supporting and creating opportunities for these businesses to thrive also keeps money within the community.
“This is where they stay and this where they spend their money,” she said. “That’s real actual economic and social development because we’re not just getting to know a new business, but we’re getting to know our neighbors, as well.”
The Chameleon Shoppes are located in Gaviidae Common, located 651 Nicollet Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, and are open Wednesday-Friday, 10 am – 2 pm now through April 26.
This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.