Feb 28, 2024 - News

How a marketplace for Black vendors is rebuilding Fillmore

Photo of people mingling in an indoor marketplace

Photo: Courtesy of In the Black

A little over a year after In The Black first opened to the public in the Fillmore District, leaders of the marketplace for Black-owned businesses say it's thriving, both at its brick-and-mortar location and online.

Why it matters: The Fillmore was once known as the "Harlem of the West" with its bustling jazz scene and nightlife, but the city's 1960s redevelopment of the district decimated the Black population, displacing over 4,700 households and shuttering 883 businesses.

How it happened: A group of Black entrepreneurs first conceived of the idea to create a Black-led marketplace during the pandemic, which dealt blows to small businesses across the city.

  • Partnering with the city's economic development office, the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation (SFHDC) and the Dream Keeper Initiative, they established In The Black to reclaim physical space for their community and ensure that Black businesses get the opportunity they deserve, according to marketplace manager Joshua Farr.
  • "Our vision is to bring the energy and spirit of Black entrepreneurship back to the Fillmore," Farr told Axios.

State of play: Since its launch, the marketplace has supported over 22 businesses, hosted events to showcase products from local Black vendors and collaborated with the California Academy of Sciences and the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

  • It's also working with SFHDC to train entrepreneurs through a 12-week business development program called Minding My Black-Owned Business.
  • The marketplace is now exploring ways to connect vendors directly to customers through QR codes and in-store kiosks.

What they're saying: In The Black enables customers to interact one-on-one with Black vendors in person, something that can be rare in this day and age, said Shawna Sherman, manager of the African American Center at San Francisco Public Library.

  • Supporting San Francisco residents "to create more culture and social life for African Americans is only a good thing," she told Axios.
  • The founders' goal is to narrow the gap between dreaming about starting a business and making it a reality, Farr noted.
  • It's a critical role to fill in the Fillmore, which represents a "vibrant community that was lost," Farr added.

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