The pandemic and the killing of George Floyd have unleashed a global wave of dissent unprecedented in our lifetimes. But these events only brought to the surface pent-up frustrations and anger that simmered while the planet warmed, corporations consolidated power, and income inequality grew to its widest in world history. One way to push back on this is to spend your money at independent, small business establishments that reflect your own values. Amy Haben has compiled an annotated listing of some of these establishments you might want to check out.
We are living in a time of unprecedented unrest, dissent and disruption. Never before has the civil rights movement been this broad and multicultural. Protests around the world are taking place every day: whether for black lives, women’s rights, anti-governmental control, child trafficking, climate change and so on. Social uprising is in full force within a global pandemic and a major recession bigger than the Great Depression.
Now is the time to stand up for what is right, speak our minds and support the underdogs. With that in mind, I made a list of all my favorite small businesses starting with POC-owned stores, because it’s important to support the community in a financial sense as well as with your words. Let’s honor John Lewis’ life and message of unity by coming together. I included a list of ally-owned independent stores that need support as well including record stores, clothing shops, and art galleries.
1. The Lit. Bar
Hard to believe but this POC-owned business is the ONLY indie bookstore in the Bronx. Owner Noelle Santos is a proud Bronx native. This venue includes a wine bar and various community gatherings along with a vast selection of books including many NYC-based novels and anti-racism literature. You can also join their book club online and make some new friends while learning something new. (www.thelitbar.com)
2. Mikey Likes It
NYC native Michael Cole is pushing the boundaries of ice cream with interesting combinations like the Jack and Jill: peanut butter ice cream with strawberry preserves. His ice cream names are derived from pop culture history like the Brady Bunch and Foxy Brown. You can enjoy his unique flavors at his shops in Harlem and the Lower East Side. (www.mikeylikesiticecream.com)
In the 1960’s, the Black Panthers held open mics at this casual Los Angeles restaurant which serves up chicken and waffles among other delectable dishes. It’s affordable, the people are friendly and Aretha Franklin is blasting from the speakers. (1827 E. 103rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90002)
4. Vibes And Stuff Record Shop
This Valdosta, Georgia-based record shop has a Go Fund Me posted on their Instagram about pandemic-rooted financial problems. The owner is a true well-rounded music enthusiast. He posts live videos of local punk bands yet carries Miles Davis and Parliament on vinyl in store. Check out his Instagram for some cool vintage clips of record diggers and music videos. (Instagram: @vibesandstuffrecordshop)
Union was born out of a desire to showcase what the local kids were into with music, art, and fashion. They opened their doors on Spring Street in Soho in 1989. Chris Gibbs, who worked at the NYC shop as a young man, now owns the Los Angeles location. They are known as a high-end streetwear boutique because they carry major labels like Comme Des Garcons, but keep it real by also selling the blue-collar California staple, Dickies.
6. Dressing Rooms Interior Studio
Ariene Bethea is a huntress of stylish vintage furniture. Her Charlotte, N.C. interiors business, Dressing Rooms, is an eclectic mix of vintage and modern home decor. Find treasures on her website such as: mid-century Moroccan camel saddle stools, a carved vintage Nigerian mask, a ‘70s Hollywood pagoda cabinet, and a ‘60s bright yellow waterfall coffee table. (dressingroominteriorsstudio.com).
7. Blackout Box
The first ever subscription box service which carries quality products from Black-owned businesses only. Your surprise monthly box will be filled with any mix of beauty products, clothing, drink, snacks, hair products, bath needs or fragrances. (Blackoutboxstore.com)
8. Abasi Concepts
Meet Tosin Abasi, metal guitarist for Animals As Leaders. He developed his seven-and eight-stringed guitars out of his own need for a more technical and personalized instrument. He has always noticed the lack of people of color in the metal scene but did not realize how many anti BLM caucasians were fans. “My fanbase obviously resonates with support for the Black experience, but I’ve seen fallout from peers who spoke about it and lost hundreds of followers. There’s never really been a conversation about it in metal.” (Abasiconcepts.com)
Fresh and tasty vegan meals made by rapper Hugh Augustine for the Baldwin Hills/ Crenshaw area of South Los Angeles. Hugh founded his company out of a lack of healthy vegetarian restaurants in his neighborhood. His urge to nourish his community and help people live longer is truly inspiring. (Instagram: @hughaugustinemc)
Luxury eyewear brand started in 2009 by twin sisters Corianne and Briana Dotson. The edgy and vintage inspired frames have been mentioned in Vogue and even worn by the late Prince. (Cocoandbreezy.com)
Favorite businesses by BLM allies:
1. Cindy Guitars
From her beginnings etching life drawings under Michael Grimaldi’s eye to building guitars from scratch for Jackson Smith of the Patti Smith Group and Kurt Vile of the Violators, artist Cindy Hulej has always had a creative drive. While helping the late, great stylist Jimmy Webb clean his apartment after flood damage, he suggested doing something around guitars since she had been strumming with a passion from the age of nine on. Cindy had followed Rick Kelly’s guitar making throughout high school. He has owned quite a few shops over the years including Naked City Guitars which was frequented by David Bowie and Lou Reed. Kelly repurposed wood which he had taken from Chumley’s speakeasy, the Chelsea Hotel, and Jim Jarmusch’s loft, among other places, to use in his guitars. Cindy took on an unpaid apprenticeship and nine years later she has built her own business making guitars by the side of her mentor Rick inside Carmine Street Guitars in Greenwich Village. Follow @cindysguitars and @carminestreetguitars on Instagram. Some notable pieces you’ll find are a custom Who guitar with a Union Jack face and an Iron Butterfly guitar with a butterfly shaped body. (www.cindyguitars.com)
The gorgeous and talented Kim Prager Wilson owns and operates the fabulous Medusa Salon located on 177 Seventh Avenue in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn. As an NYC native and rock n’ roller, she has seen it all and has fabulous taste. Her staff have a wide variety of talents from highlights to weaves. Her husband Ian Wilson sings and plays guitar in the post-punk band, Isolation Society. (www.medusasalonny.com)
3. Trash And Vaudeville
Ray Goodman founded this punk rock institution in 1975 on 4 St. Mark’s Place within two stories of the historic Hamilton-Holly house building. Among the racks of this store you’ll find: Creepers, Doc Marten’s, leather cuffs, bondage pants, pyramid belts, band t-shirts, skull rings, etc. They have anything and everything for the rocker in your life. His partner Daang Goodman created the Tripp NYC line of clothes which they sell in store and around the world. Blondie, the Ramones, the Clash, Slash, Iggy Pop and many others have been outfitted by clothing from this haunt over the years. Local punk Jimmy Webb became a stylist to the stars while working here from 1999-2016 before opening his own shop called I Need More. For the past four years, Trash and Vaudeville has operated out of a building on 96 E. 7th Street after being priced out of their previous home. (www.trashandvaudeville.com)
4. Wacko Soap Plant
If you have cool Los Angeles friends, then the first place they bring you to is Wacko in Los Feliz. This art gallery within a soap factory sells books, bobbleheads, gag gifts, candles, candy, jewelry, rock memorablila, scented oils, lotions and so on. Basically, it’s a toy store for weirdo adults. I could spend hours in there and most of my money. (www.soapplant.com)
5. The Cast
Lower East Side rocker hang out which sells custom made leather jackets, punk T-shirts, berets, and books. They often have photo exhibits, book signings, and backyard parties. The rear of the store is called The Night Shift and dedicated to badass femme gear.
Local cool kid and owner, Chuck Bones, started out screen printing T-shirts in his basement, but with hard work and a D.I.Y. punk attitude, his business has grown tremendously. He regularly dresses famous musicians for the stage in his gear. He reminds me of a more handsome version of Lux Interior. Check out his punk band, the Trashbags, and definitely see them live for a wild night out, (if that ever happens again.) (www.thecast.com)
6. Academy Records Annex
You can tell that the owners of Academy Records in Greenpoint, Brooklyn have a Ph. D in music taste. Every record is either new or in excellent used condition. This isn’t one of those junky, second-hand record stores. They have a well-organized and vast selection of genres from punk to soul. They conveniently sell 45 adapters, cleaning cloths and record totes for all your DJ needs. (www.academy-lps.com)
7. Champs Diner
Comfort food vegan diner ran by a cool waitstaff blasting punk songs. I’ve brought meat eaters here and they forget they are eating plant-based entrees. Everyone raves about the taste and atmosphere. Last time I came here “Borstal Breakout,” by Sham 69 was playing and I was in heaven. Be sure to try the Nashville hot chk’n sandwich and a banana creme pie shake when you visit. Not many places like this in NYC. (www.champsdiner.com)
8. Quimby’s Bookstore
Affable owner Steven is usually behind the counter to help you with any questions that you may have. His shelves are mainly stocked with queer-related books and magazines, rock biographies, and the occult. Snag unique items for sale like taxidermy, one-of-a-kind jewelry items and goddess adorned pillar candles. Tarot readers are available in the back room to give you answers about your complicated love life. (www.quimbysnyc.com)
9. Shoe Market
This female-owned Williamsburg, Brooklyn shoe store has been a staple of the community since 1999. They carry a wide variety of youthful brands for every gender such as: Vagabond, Gola, Intentionally Black, Jeffrey Campbell and much more. The friendly store manager always lets dogs inside, which adds to the laid back vibe. (www.shoemarketnyc.com)
10. Leopard And Lace
This rocker clothing brand for lifers produces the best hot pants I’ve ever owned. I was attracted to black ones with leopard patches on them, but they also carry flamed shorts, snake print, and rose patched booty huggers. Self-taught designer Stef Leopard custom makes these groovy retro threads in her Richmond, Virginia studio. Her blue velvet bellbottoms with a V stripe on the crotch remind me of Slade and the Bay City Rollers. One of a kind catsuits are available as well as fringe tops and band t-shirt bodysuits she uniquely calls ‘kitten suits.’ (www.leopardandlace.com)