Black business boom: Black-owned businesses opening in the Chicago area, thriving amid the pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) — There has been an increase in the number of Black-owned businesses that have opened and thrived during the pandemic, both in Chicago and across the country.

A bright spot on a stretch of 16th Street in North Lawndale is Boyce Enterprise, a beauty and accessories store. 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, but we’re limited to where we can shop,” she explained.

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Boyce said she enjoys being an entrepreneur and statistics show there has been an increase 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 I really want to do,” said Kenya Merritt of Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Merritt said it was a time of reinvention. That’s what Stephanie Hart did. The owner of Brown Sugar Bakery in Grand Crossing got into candy making.

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For those who don’t know 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 neighborhood,” Merritt said.

Evanston sees its own entrepreneurial energy. A vacant goods factory will soon be transformed into a hub for black businesses called The Aux. Ten to twenty companies will be housed in this space.

“Most of our space is taken up and I would say we’re kind of like a hot commodity, and hopefully we’ll stay that way for years to come,” said Tosha Wilson, co-developer at The Aux.

Puppy Mercerie grooming salon in Ashburn is also busy, where the pandemic has actually boosted business.

“Everyone had a dog during the pandemic who didn’t have one, so because of that we saw a huge influx of customers,” said co-owner Lloyd Williams.

And Puppy Mercerie is one of many pandemic success stories from adversity to opportunity, they will soon be opening a second location right here in Hyde Park.

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