The number of Black Woman Owned Businesses is sky rocking. According to the 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, business owned by women of color grew at a rate of 43%, specifically; Black Woman Owned Businesses grew at a rate of 50%. Black Woman Owned Businesses and Entrepreneurship is at an all-time high and that is present in Bronzeville. This district has a rich history of being a hub of Black Owned businesses and these women are embracing entrepreneurship, carving their own path and bringing much needed opportunities to their communities.
Sherry Spellers- Amour Salon Suites 648 E 43rd St, Chicago, IL 60653
A native to Chicago, Sherry Spellers is a licensed cosmetologist and owner of Black Owned, Amour Salon Suites for 22 years in Bronzeville.
Sherry Spellers (SS): I started in 1998 with a bunch of thrifted furniture. People said I was crazy back then for owning a salon in this area. A week in, there was a shootout right outside my salon. The building was old, I had numerous violations, and I’ve been shut down by the city for a few days here and there. I had to fix it up. It’s an ongoing work in progress. I was rehabbing amid the pandemic. When we were shut down in March, I was devastated. I had many sleepless nights. I am a cosmetologist, and my hair was coming out. But through it all, being able to operate is a blessing.
Kelly Washington (KW): What are the challenges of maintaining a business in Bronzeville now in 2020 versus 1998? Gentrification is real in Bronzeville.
SS: Yes! There are so many challenges. The main one is the significant hike in my taxes. My taxes went up by over $3000. That’s tough to deal with after being shut down for months.
KW: Well, that is one of their tactics for pushing people out when there is a new development.
SS: You said it. I didn’t! (laughs)
KW: What makes Amour Salon Suites unique from other salons, and how can we as a community support or help your business?
SS: Services-What makes us unique is that we have suites within the salon. Besides hairstylists, we have a Barbers suite with two licensed barbers, a loctician who also sells copper jewelry, and an esthetician. Everyone has their own space, and they bring so much talent and flavor to the salon. My coworkers are amazing, and they are weathering the storm with me! As far as the community, word of mouth is free and helps tremendously! We are on Facebook, and sharing a post is free. Come into the salon; we are a one-stop-shop. We sell products, cut hair, and provide every hair service, braiding, crochet, locs, relaxers, etc. Everything is safe and sanitized. We are also open on Sundays and Mondays! These are the many ways the community can help. Through it all, I’m blessed.
Kelli Rich – Some Like It Black Creative Arts Bar- 4259 S. Cottage Grove Chicago IL 60653
Located in Bronzeville, Some Like It Black Creative Arts Bar boasts an intimate space and homelike vibe, where artists and creatives can express their individuality. It is also a full-service bar.
Kelli Rich (KR) – We are a full-service creative arts bar and cafe. We are known for our tacos and specialty craft drinks, which we name ours after historical Black people and Black songs from different eras. A couple of the names are Mississippi Go*****, named after Nina Simone’s song, and the Belafonte, named after Harry Belafonte. We have a small stage and host different artists in the community. We have live jazz sets, showcases, and poetry slams. We’re known for giving artists a good start in entertainment.
KW- Are there designated nights for these events?
KR-Due to the COVID, we are playing stuff by ear. We usually have events on Fridays and Saturdays. You can find more information on Facebook and Instagram social media pages.
KW- Speaking of COVID, what are the challenges of running a full-service bar with the current guidelines that are in place?
KR- We cannot host events because we’re limited on the number of people. We do not rent our space for events right now because there is not anyone who wants to hold an event where they can only invite 20 people. We have a patio, but if it rains, we limit how many can come inside. We also have not seen any of our regular customers. Perhaps they are cautious. I don’t know. It has been extremely challenging. There are people in the area who have received grants. Some Like It Black has not received anything. So we are trying to hang on, but we are hanging in there.
KW- We want you to continue to hang in there. What can the community do to support your business?
KR-We want people to know we are here and to come and patronize us. Residents of Bronzeville head straight to Hyde Park. We have patio dining as well! The customers who have visited us lately said they did not know we were here in Bronzeville. When they come, they love the vibe!
Dinai Yelverton, Dr. Marva L. Cooksey (owner) – Next Man Up – 946 E. 43rd Street Chicago, IL 60653
Next Man Up is a Black Owned luxury spa that is a man’s ultimate spa experience designed to cater to complete relaxation and clinical needs. It is a soothing and eclectic atmosphere inspired by the culture and community that creates an oasis to restore the mind, body, and soul.
Dinai Yelverton (DY)- We cater to men the only spa on the southside of Chicago who caters specifically to the relaxation and the clinical needs of men. We created the spa because African American men they are stressed and they don’t take time for self-care, nor do they know what it looks like; create a space for men so that they relaxation Swedish massages, deep tissue massage we also offer clinical massages and clinical massages are anything related to the health needs of the individual like sciatica. My mother is currently treating a patient with Parkison’s. My mother, Dr. Marva Cooksey, is a clinical massage therapist and a pharmacist, so she can match those professions and treat individuals with medical conditions. We also offer manicures and pedicures, waxing services, and facials, but we currently can’t provide facials because of the COVID guidelines. We offer barber services on Saturdays and by appointment only. We are a full-service spa.
KW- I have a two-part question. What have been some of the challenges for your business with the pandemic? Have you also faced any challenges in a neighborhood that is gentrifying? Has it affected your small business?
DY- all our services require close contact, so ensuring we adhere to the guidelines is a challenge, but we have to stick to it. We have had to reevaluate some of the services that we offer. When guests come to the spa, they are temperature screened and have to wear shoe covers not to track anything onto the spa.
Suppose we discuss gentrification related to how it may affect business and people being displaced. In that case, that is a whole different conversation, but we welcome everyone as it relates to the spa. We have seen a variety of races and ethnicities. We are super thrilled to have a diverse clientele. We also service women.
KW– That’s good to know!
DY– We have a woman’s only suite separate from the men. We want to make sure the men can enjoy getting a manicure and pedicure without judgment, and we also want to make sure women feel safe. We keep the bathrooms separate and offer the same spa relaxation and clinical services to women in their own suite. We had a woman here recently for a prenatal massage. We offer couples massages as well.
KW- As a community, how can we support your business?
DY– Get the word out. We have not even been here a year. We opened in November, and then COVID hit, and we were closed for months. Word of mouth is big. Letting people know that we are here in the community, and getting people to come through the door is significant. We are also hiring. We are looking for licensed nail techs, massage therapists, and estheticians. At a time when people are losing their jobs, we are hiring.
Kelly Washington is a freelance writer living on the southside of Chicago. You can follow her on social media @ Sunrise and Sugar (Facebook) and @ BlackBFly7 (Twitter).