Chicago area Black-owned businesses opening, flourishing amid pandemic

The Aux set to open in Evanston as hub for Black entrepreneurs
CHICAGO (WLS) -- There's been a surge of Black-owned businesses opening and flourishing during the pandemic, both in Chicago and nationwide.

A bright spot on a stretch of 16th street in North Lawndale is Boyce Enterprise, a beauty supply and accessory shop. It's new to the neighborhood; Vetress Boyce opened it in November and said customers started coming in immediately.

"Not only do we have a food desert in this community, we're limited to where we can shop," she explained.

SEE ALSO | Chicago Black Restaurant Week 2022 highlights Black-owned establishments

Boyce said she enjoys being an entrepreneur and statistics show there's been a surge in Black businesses during the pandemic. In fact, Black business owners are up 38% from pre-COVID levels, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

"People are figuring out what is it that I really want to do," said Kenya Merritt, with Chicago's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Merritt said this is a time of reinvention. It's what Stephanie Hart did. The owner of Brown Sugar Bakery in Grand Crossing branched out into manufacturing candy.

SEE ALSO | Black-owned spa teaching men about self-care in Alsip

For others who aren't sure how to start a business, there are community business centers throughout the city.

"We wanted to make sure entrepreneurs have access to resources right in their neighborhoods," Merritt said.

Evanston is seeing its own entrepreneurial energy. A vacant produce factory will soon be transformed into a hub for Black businesses called The Aux. Ten to 20 businesses will be housed in this space.

"Most of our space is taken and I would say, we are kind of like a hot commodity, and I hope we stay that way for years to come," said Tosha Wilson, co-developer at The Aux.

Also busy is Puppy Haberdashery grooming salon in Ashburn, where the pandemic has actually been a boost for business.

"Everybody got a dog during the pandemic that didn't have one so because of that, we have seen a large influx of clientele," co-owner Lloyd Williams said.

And Puppy Haberdashery is one of several pandemic adversity-to-opportunity success stories they will soon open a second location right here in Hyde Park.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.