Tue, May

Black retail co-ops at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza

Photos by Jason Lewis


Afro City Marketplace and My BBB have created a home for several Black merchants.

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By Megan Reed

The retail market is tough for small-business owners.  It’s difficult to get their products into the major retail stores, and leasing space in shopping malls is very expensive, leading many local Black merchants to reply on pop-up shop events.  

Two stores at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza are giving local Black merchants an opportunity to sell their products on a daily basis in a shopping mall.  Afro City Marketplace and My BBB are using a co-op business model, where merchants can have a section in the retail store.

“Afro City is a collective of Black-owned businesses,” said Afro City Marketplace creator Rwanda Ray.  “We’re all under one roof for economic development and to recycle Black dollars.”

“We’re providing a platform for Black-owned brands who normally do popups,” said Mercedes Jenkins-Carter, owner of My BBB.  “We’re giving them a home and an anchor.”

These stores feature clothing, accessories, health products, candles, jewelry, trinkets, and many other products that have Afrocentric themes.  

Partnering with several Black merchants allows these businesses to increase their revenue while keeping their overhead low.  It also gives the merchants a clearer path to sell their goods in a shopping mall.

“We’re working together with common goals, and without the big overhead,” Jenkins-Carter said.  “There are a lot of barriers of entry.  There’s insurance, contractors, painters, and there’s inventory.  So there’s quite a few barriers to entry.  When they come here, they’ll learn all of the tools.  So when they’re ready to take that plunge, they will be equipped to make it to the next level.”

These co-ops have less red tape than the major retail stores because the local merchants can work directly with the manager of the co-op.

“We provide affordable retail space for small Black-owned business,” Ray said.  It’s very affordable, especially after COVID.  If they can’t afford a full space, then we’ll try to make a smaller section that can work with their business until they scale to a bigger space.”

Both Afro City Marketplace and My BBB are located on the first level of the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.  For more information visit www.afrocitymarketplace.com and www.myblackbeautybox.org, and follow them on social media.