Black Restaurant Week underway in the Carolinas

North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE)- Black business owners like Zsa Zsa Porter are struggling to attract customers. Porter and her partner opened Exposed Vegan on West Boulevard in Charlotte at the start of the pandemic offering healthy food items to a community hit hardest by it.

“Doing the marketing and trying to open up a business at the same time has been a little bit of a struggle but we haven’t seen any declines because we’re fairly new,” Porter said. “The local supermarket is really far away and so we thought this was the best place for us to help the African American community.”

So far, there has been no dip in sales, but Porter says exposure has been a major problem. It’s a similar case for Shamika Brooks who’s one of the owners of Hip Hop Smoothies on Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road.

The business has been operating for three years. More than $50,000 went into moving into a brick-and-mortar store a year ago. Sales from their food truck and trailer dropped more than 60 percent.

“Last year was a little struggle, it was probably the biggest hump that we’ve ever had because our truck was our main source of income so it was out every single day almost,” Brooks said. “We went from having a lot of corporate events scheduled because now people were working from home to actually serving more of the communities, apartment complexes, HOAs in the area.”

Falayn Ferrell is the co-founder of Black Restaurant Week. It’s a national campaign helping local businesses attract more customers through free marketing and exposure on its social media platforms of more than 120,000 followers.

It’s the first time businesses in the Carolinas are being recognized by the group and comes during a pivotal time for Black owners. It was founded in Houston Texas in 2016 to help promote Black businesses.

“A lot of small businesses are in their recovery phase from the pandemic,” Ferrell said. “A lot of businesses in our community really fund their businesses through personal credit cards, personal loans. They don’t have this wealth of capital sitting in the bank.”

A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows 41 percent of Black-owned business owners have been hit hard by the pandemic, compared to just 17 percent of white-owned businesses.

“It’s really important now when the economy has really closed in to come in and be a blessing to them and essentially give them revenue for them to hire employees, open up new locations and keep those dollars flowing through from their local communities,” Ferrell said.

The campaign runs until May 2 and there’s a chance to win $500 for shopping at Black-owned businesses. Click here to find out more.

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