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Uplift Us Marketplace features Black-made merchandise

Sisters Kendra Settle (left) and Kristel Jones’ Uplift Us Marketplace is on the second floor of the Westfield Culver City Mall, adjacent to Macy’s.

Lifestyle

The Boutique retail store at the Westfield Culver City Mall has over 80 Black-owned brands.

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Photos by Jason Lewis
 

By Megan Reed

Sisters Kendra Settle and Kristel Jones make it a point to support Black-owned businesses, and they try to use as many products made by Black manufacturers as possible.  But finding those products is always a challenge, and many products that are targeted toward Black people are not made by Black manufacturers.

“We were trying to be more conscious about shopping Black, and we found out that a lot of the products that we thought were Black owned because they were for us, but they were not by us,” Jones said.

“We didn’t like the way that felt, and we wanted to support Black-owned businesses,” Settle said.  “It was kind of hard to find a huge variety of Black-owned businesses.”

The sisters decided to solve their own problem, which is a problem that many Black people have.  They opened Uplift Us Marketplace in Granada Hills in March of 2021, and then a second location at the Westfield Culver City Mall, affectionally known as the Fox Hills Mall to long-time residents of Los Angeles, in August in 2021.

“We thought that it would be a great place to create a one-stop shop for you to shop Black and support small businesses and Black businesses,” Jones said.  

This boutique retail store has over 80 Black-owned brands.  It has clothes, haircare and beauty products, candles, gift cards, a children’s section, and more.  

“If you want to switch over your shampoo to Black owned, this is where you come,” Settle said.  “If you want to switch over your nail polish to Black owned, this is where you come.”

The store has coffee from L.A. Grind Coffee and Tea Bar, which is a Black-owned coffee shop on Redondo Boulevard, just south of Pico Boulevard.
 

Uplift Us Marketplace is a high-end retail store that creates an environment that is very welcoming to Black shoppers, as well as shoppers of all races.

“We heard a lot of rumblings about experiences that people had in trying to shop Black,” Jones said.  “We wanted to create a space where you could be proud to shop, proud to have your products if you’re a business owner.  And come in and get that Nordstrom experience with customer services; the look, the feel, the quality, and feel so proud that it’s black owned.  We wanted to alleviate some of the stereotypes that people have when shopping Black.”

Store manager Jordan Johnson helps create an environment that is very welcoming to customers.
 

This store is important because it is difficult for Black manufacturers to get their products on the shelves of mainstream retail stores.

“We started doing the research of getting it in a store, and needless to say, it’s very difficult; especially for people of color,” Settle said.  “A lot of big box businesses are starting to launch programs to get Black businesses in their stores, but Black people only own about three percent of shelf space inside retail stores.  And it’s an extremely difficult and long process even though they’ve launched these programs.”

“At the same time that she was doing that research, one day I watched a bunch of documentaries about Black Wall Street, and I was just seeing what it was before and it really resonated with me,” Jones said.  “In one of the documentaries I saw that the Black dollar only circulates for six hours in Black communities, but in other communities it’s so much longer.  So as we were talking about everything and we just thought, ‘why don’t we just make the store?’”

“Let’s open our own store and invite other Black businesses to be in the store with us,” Settle said.

Uplift Us Marketplace is located on the second floor near Macy’s at the Westfield Culver City Mall.  Visit their website at www.upliftusmarketplace.com and follow them on social media.