A new Brooklyn resident remarked that Brooklyn does have a thriving black business community. He says his previous home, The Bronx, does not have much in the way of “blacks going for themselves.” That’s true: Brooklyn has black shop owners. Considering the holidays are upon us, it behooves us to patronize our black businesses.
Though small, these shops burst with great merchandise. Zawadi Gift Shop is one example. Located at 519 Atlantic Avenue, Zawadi calls to mind a well-laid out Grandma’s attic. To the right at entry is a glass display case of Afrocentric jewelry featuring much silver and amber. Walking farther along the clear narrow path one sees black dolls of all makes. If black dolls are what you crave, then Zawadi has some dolls that will satisfy you. In the far back are the quintessential goods for an Afrocentric wedding: crystal glasses and vases that are engraved with Adrinkra symbols, blankets, albums, and invitations. Zawadi’s merchandise line also includes gift cards, fancy pens, health & beauty items and statues. Zawadi Gift Shop is owned by Lora, Lois, and Leonette. No, they aren’t blood sisters but they are sisters in sync. Last words on Zawadi: it’s the Africana collector’s paradise.
Just a few doors away from Zawadi sits Lewis Gallery (525 Atlantic Avenue). This lithograph and framing enterprise entreats pedestrians to have a look inside with stuffed teen girl dolls literally hanging around the door. Business is conducted on three levels. The ground floor has lithographs mounted on the wall, display racks for greeting cards and books. A large table is used to rest framed lithographs while customers look at other items in the shop. The lower level is a smaller room where large and small stuffed dolls are found. This room also contains a selection of lithographs and photographs. They are Afrocentric themes, whether abstract or still shots. The upper room above the cash register is the workshop where the framing occurs. While the shopkeepers didn’t reveal their names they did offer me some of the food that they munched.
One block away from Zawadi Gift Shop and Lewis Gallery is Southern Comforts Holistic Boutique and Wellness Center (483 Atlantic Avenue). The owner, Nettie Paisley, was arranging the spacious back room for a singing engagement but stopped to explain the business model. Southern Comforts is laid out with air, light, and walking space in mind. The place is quiet and lightly scented by the essential oils, perfumes and cosmetics that are on sale. Ms. Paisley explains that the makeup bolsters women’s self-esteem. To relax and distress customers, Tierra Paisley, licensed cosmetologist, does herbal facials, eyebrows, and applies makeup. Nettie Paisley is a Reiki practitioner. She explained that the back-room is also used for reflexology, massage, Reiki therapy and belly-dancing classes. Other items for sale include candles, handcrafted soap and crystals.
Fulton Street is another place to shop black. If this is the season of giving, then 4W Circle of Art and Enterprise (704 Fulton Street) is the store to visit. 4W Circle’s motto is “¼more than just a store, an experience in Ujamaa.” By this statement, Selma Jackson established the store to be an incubator of African entrepreneurs. The space actually holds at least four businesses at any given season. The merchandise complements the other businesses’, giving off a seamless offering of exotic must-have goods. 4W Circle features home décor and gift items, artistic hair accessories, jewelry, clothes and footwear.