This Friday night artisan market in downtown features Black vendors and showcases a Black experience.
By Megan Reed
It’s important to support local small businesses, and artisan markets like Our Piece of the Pie in downtown are a great place to do that. These markets offer a very unique and communal shopping experience where vendors feature handmade goods that mainstream retail stores will not have. Many shoppers are excited to find items that are not found elsewhere.
It’s also important to support local Black-owned businesses, which is why Brian Mayes and Shai’La Stiggers, founders of Smile Natural Products, partnered with Vizion Jones and Jen Bui, founders of Black out the Ballot, to create Our Piece of the Pie, which takes place every Friday evening in downtown’s Art District from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The four creators of this artisan market shared the common interest of community building. They met at the Melrose Trading Post, which is an artisan Market that’s held at Fairfax High School. There are several artisan markets in the Los Angeles area, but Black-owned businesses and the Black experience has a certain uniqueness that is not going to be featured at the typical markets.
“Our experience with other markets is that you don’t really see a strong representation of Black people or people of color,” Jones said. “There will be a few sprinkled here and there. So it’s great to see a lot of Black markets starting to pop up around L.A. For our market, we did want to make it feel like a place that is inclusive to people of color.”
Many of the vendors at Black artisan markets like Our Piece of the Pie sell Afrocentric merchandise, that is geared toward Black shoppers.
“One of the aims of the market is to connect with people of color,” Mayes said. “To offer items that our people like, and also highlight some great people who are providing some great products.”
Vendors at Our Piece of the Pie sell products from a variety of industries, including apparel, art, and health and wellness.
“Because we curate, you can find a wide range of items from our vendors,” Stiggers said. “Clothing is a staple. We have natural products, body washes. We have vendors who sell plants, fresh juice, and we have different food trucks.”
This artisan market creates a Black experience by incorporating Black music and visuals. At recent markets they projected the film Boyz N the Hood and the animated series The Boondocks on a large wall.
“We infuse entertainment by having a great D.J. to help create or add to the vibe,” Jones said. “And we figured that it would be cool to add an artist component to it by projecting Black films and animated shorts. We find interesting and cool ways to get people to come out to the market. We have grand brands and vendors, and we make it a great experience where people would love to post it on their social media and promote what we’re doing.”
This market is also great for the vendors who do not have a brick and mortar store.
“There’s been an opportunity for businesses to use our market to springboard their business,” Mayes said. “We’ve had a few success stories already. And we’ve gotten really good feedback from those vendors about new things that they’ve learned, and also they’ve been able to rethink their business plan to be something that’s more scalable.”