It’s always a good time to add more Black-owned businesses to the roster of companies you regularly support. So here are more than a dozen Black-owned businesses we’ve profiled, from bookshops to candlemakers to high fashion to young entrepreneurs who are the next generation of this city’s Black business owners.
A Northern Liberties boutique dedicated entirely to skin care and fragrances from companies founded by women was one of five winners of a $10,000 grant designed to amplify and celebrate Black-owned, women-owned businesses. Co-owners Morrisa Jenkins and Bonkosi Horn have made the boutique a popular destination for skin-care and beauty enthusiasts, with a treasure trove of toxin-free serums, cleansers, fragrances, and elixirs, including products from their own house brand.
In March 2019, Chartel Findlater launched Gold + Water Co., a line of handmade body products that includes body butter, beard balm, and soaps that resemble small slabs of Italian marble with accents of gold mica — a natural shimmering pigment. The name Gold + Water is a nod to the biblical scripture 1 Peter 1:6, and Findlater’s own experiences with domestic abuse. The scripture “talks about being refined and coming out like gold,” she said. “No matter what elements you have to withstand, you can become better than you were. And water is cleansing and reminds me of rest.” Gold + Water soaps cost $9 for a four-ounce size. Other products range from $12 to $40. All are available online and at Occasionette Joy Shop, Vault + Vine, Art Star Philly, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and more.
In February 2020, Jeannine A. Cook opened Harriett’s Bookshop, both a bookshop specializing in women authors and a space “for folks to come together, discuss ideas, and debate in a healthy way.” Then the pandemic hit. But Harriett’s has continued to be a vital place for community. During the Black Lives Matter protests, Cook donned a mask and a large bag filled with books and handed out free books to the hundreds of protesters at City Hall. (The titles: Kate Clifford Larson’s Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley). Then, in October, the store reopened its doors for a sit-in demonstration — to respond to the racist and threatening emails that were sent to several Philly Black-owned businesses in September.
Across the bridge in Collingswood, New Jersey, Cook opened her second bookstore, Ida’s Bookshop, in summer 2021. Ida’s is named after Ida B. Wells, a Black investigative journalist and one of the founders of the NAACP, the bookstore, like it’s Fishtown counterpart, focuses on driving change and community engagement through books.
What started out as Marques Davis’ small, made-to-order Etsy shop now produces hundreds of candles a month in scents like white tea & ginger, grapefruit mimosa, golden teakwood, and tobacco noire, spice poached pear, and black pepper & cardamom. The candles are now sold on the company’s website and at The Mercantile, Robertson’s Flowers, Rothe Florists, Ocassionette, and Marsh + Mane. The candles come in three sizes: 6-oz. candle in a silver tin ($14.50), 9.5-oz. candle in glass tumbler ($22.50), and a 16-oz. candle in an apothecary jar ($31.50).
Consistency is one of the principles that the cofounders of Mitchell & Mitchell, Frank and Kenya Mitchell, abide by. They started making wine in 2012 after realizing that the libations took up the largest portion of their budget for the several dinner parties they hosted and attended with their friends and family. Mitchell & Mitchell is one of Philly’s only Black-owned wine companies. The company now makes more than a dozen varietals, including a pinotage, sauvignon blanc, and pinot grigio, ranging in price from $15-$40 a bottle.
Deric “Nyce” Crawley and Muhammad “Homm” Abdul-Basit officially launched their luxury streetwear brand, Jeantrix, in 2006. The brand’s signature look is graffiti-styled artwork and calligraphy applied to mostly denim and leather fabrics. Their garments have been worn by Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys, Lil’ Kim, Lil Nas X, Megan Thee Stallion, and, in 2020, appeared in Black Is King, the visual film performed, curated, and produced by Beyoncé. Both owners know how to sew, but they buy garments wholesale and customize them with a variety of techniques and materials. A simple design with limited colors takes about two hours to complete, but a more elaborate design could take days. Jeantrix’s prices range from $18 for a pair of socks to over $1,000 for a custom jacket.
Larnell Baldwin has spent more than 40 years leather crafting, pattern making, trimming, hemming, and creating bespoke suiting for celebrity athletes such as Malcolm Jenkins and Moses Malone. And since 1988, Queen Village’s Baldwin Fine Custom Tailoring, on historic Fabric Row, has been the hub of his business and fashion institute, where he’s helped nurture more than a thousand designers and tailors. His store was looted during the protests of George Floyd’s death. But his son and a former student helped raise more than $30,000 for repairs in less than a week.
“Drinking a cup of tea is a form of introspection,” says Viva Tea Leaf Co. owner Christa Barfield. “When I’m doing my meditations and praying, … drinking tea allows me to sit in the moment and be present.” Barfield, 33, fell in love with tea in 2018 after taking a trip to the Caribbean island of Martinique, where every morning with her breakfast she was served a piping hot cup from the couple she visited. There, she learned to drink tea in a new way. The host would take live herbs, like echinacea, from his garden, put them in a cup, and pour hot water over them. In 2019, she launched Viva Leaf Tea, which sells hand-blended teas from herbs and plants that Barfield grows from seed. The name of the company, Viva Leaf, is a nod to the fresh herbal teas she drank in Martinique.
In the past decade, Ricky Codio, who moved from Haiti to Philadelphia when he was 9, has become one of the region’s most sought-after fashion photographers, working with the likes of Nafessa Williams of CW’s Black Lightning and the fashion-designing duo Jeantrix. In 2016, Codio and longtime collaborator and noted makeup artist Jacen Bowman teamed up for a maternity photo shoot with Tara Wallace, from VH1′s Love & Hip Hop: New York. The photo went viral after Wallace posted it on Instagram, and they received a slew of requests for maternity shoots, now one of Codio’s signatures.
Kimberly McGlonn’s one-of-a-kind, upcycled, sustainably made garments are both sustainable and chic. McGlonn and her imaginative all-female team of designers utilize vintage or used clothing, as well as virgin fabric, to create stylish tops, bottoms, dresses, skirts, outerwear, and accessories at her retail business, Grant Blvd. The company is named for the Milwaukee street where the owner grew up in the ’90s. And McGlonn won a BeyGood grant. That’s Beyoncé's philanthropic organization, which teamed up last year with the NAACP to make grants of up to $10,000 to Black-owned small-business owners to help deal with the economic impact of the pandemic.
Erik Honesty relishes the art of menswear — the blazers, topcoats, cufflinks, ties, bow ties, pocket squares, tie clips, and capes — “the whole gauntlet of getting dressed up.” Honesty’s reverence for fashion history inspired him to create an enterprise that honors the roots of Black American culture and corners the men’s designer vintage market in Germantown.
At Trunc, a Northern Liberties artisan boutique, there are requirements for artists who aspire to sell their work there: All items have to be handmade and their art has to tell a story. “I really want to continue to be a vehicle for emerging artists,” said co-owner Dorothea Gamble. “If the Art Museum is looking for new artists, I want them to call us.” The store showcases work from Philly artists and artisans.
Micah Harrigan is a “kidpreneur” who drew fans to his South Philly lemonade stand. When the crowds got too big, he moved his cool lemonades — which include strawberry, peach, watermelon, and the traditional lemon — to OCF Coffee House at 20th and Federal Streets. Harrigan doesn’t have any pop-ups planned right now (he announces them on his Instagram), but he’s got serious ambitions: He’s currently raising money to retrofit a minibus to be a food truck. Someone else will have to drive: It will still be a few years before he turns 16.
Like a lot of youngsters, Makyla Linder, then 11, found herself getting bored in early 2020. So she started watching videos and shows about baking, on TV and the Internet, even though the only baking she’d ever done was while helping out her grandmother. Soon, she dove in on her own. Cupcakes and chocolate-covered strawberries were the Queen Village kid’s first creations. Now she’s started her own company, taking orders through her Instagram account. Linder makes cupcakes and chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate-covered pretzels, white-chocolate-covered Oreos, chocolate apples, Rice Krispies treats, and banana pudding.
Steven White contributed to this article.