“It’s a statement that we are here. You can’t erase us, and you can’t push us to the perimeter …” – Davita Galloway
Charlotte’s minority-owned businesses will take center stage during two major events this month poised to bring millions of visitors and dollars into the city.
Up to 30 local black and brown merchants and entrepreneurs will get the chance to show off their products and flex their brands at Shop Charlotte, a small-business market that aims to support and promote local vendors during the NBA All-Star Weekend Feb. 15 to 17, and then again during the CIAA tournament March 1 to 3. The market will set up shop in a newly-opened event venue in uptown’s Second Ward at 223 South Brevard Street.
Shop Charlotte is the brainchild of local artist, fashion designer and all-around creative prodigy Davita Galloway, who co-owns the dupp&swat creative studio at Camp North End with her brother, Dion.
Shop Charlotte, says Galloway, “is a way for marginalized communities to have a platform and get their products in front of a variety of people and a diverse audience.”.Merchants featured include apparel shops, such as Jade Sky, Power in One and State of Funk, and also Bea N’ Bev, which offers self-care and lifestyle products helping black women on their journey to self-fulfillment and self-love.
Galloway forecasts two boons for the city from her efforts.
One, the market will open during Black History Month, and Galloway has no qualms about making it known that most of the market’s vendors will be people of color.
Two, the market is happening in what was once the Brooklyn Community, one of Charlotte’s oldest historically-black neighborhoods. Brooklyn was an expansive residential community decimated during the Urban Renewal efforts of the 1960s and 70s. The corner of 3rd and South Brevard Streets is home to a few of the remaining buildings, Grace AME Zion Church (circa 1902) and the Mecklenburg Investment Company (circa 1922). [Thank you to Walter Frye of The Incite Foundry for this information.]
“It’s a statement that we are here,” Galloway says. “You can’t erase us, and you can’t push us to the perimeter, even though you may try. We have great products. Why not support us? You can’t deny our presence. You can’t deny us as a people.”
“A lot will take off from this,” Galloway says of Shop Charlotte. “This is just the primer.”
Elevating the community
Galloway developed the idea after contrasting the millions of dollars All-Star Weekend and the CIAA will generate in Charlotte with the city’s stark socioeconomic disparities. She asked herself what could be done to keep that cash in the local economy.
“Out-of-towners and outside promoters are able to come in and swoop entire venues and make money in the city and then leave,” Galloway says. Shop Charlotte is a way to financially uplift local businesses, which ultimately uplifts communities.
That causal relationship is becoming even more important as the city continues to reel from a 2014 academic study that ranked it last among the nation’s 50 largest cities in upward mobility. That means poor children born in Charlotte have the worst chances of escaping poverty and scaling the socioeconomic ladder than children in any of the other cities analyzed.
News of the study set off a series of debates, discussions and demands for action among city officials and community activists. A task force formed to study the problem and issue a series of recommendations on how to resolve it.
Depending on who you ask, the progress has been minimal. Shop Charlotte could be a catalyst to effect change.
“Let’s start making steps toward fixing the problem instead of just talking about it all the time,” Galloway says. “You have to give people a platform. You have to assume the best in people. If you give them an opportunity…if you say yes to someone, they’re going to deliver.”
A ‘breath of fresh air’ in uptown
Galloway envisions Shop Charlotte as colorful, energetic and cohesive. She wants it to look like one, single retail store, so she’s working with an interior decorator to ensure that vendor tables aren’t disjointed.
Artwork that’s for sale will adorn the walls. Music will play over speakers. A chef will serve up tapas-style eats, and a bartender will be on tap. Vendors from an array of industries — fashion, skincare, health and beauty, to name a few — will display their merchandise, and local influencers will host a series of chats covering artistry, creativity and entrepreneurship, among other topics.
One of those chats includes the Live in Color Workshop on Feb. 16, an interactive writing seminar that will help attendees tap into their “truth Chakra,” use their life experiences to tell their own stories and live their truths unapologetically.
“There will be lots and lots of energy,” Galloway says. “It’ll be a beautiful, wonderful, colorful market plopped in the middle of uptown. This will be a breath of fresh air.”
“It’s a huge yes for the city.”
Want to go?
It doesn’t cost to get into Shop Charlotte. You’ll only spend money with the vendors.
NBA All-Star Weekend
Feb. 15-16: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Feb. 17: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Live in Color Workshop
Feb. 16: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
March 1-2: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
March 3: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Where: 223 S. Brevard Street
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