CLEVELAND — The GlenVillage retail incubator gives black businesses a state-of-the-art physical space and a strategic location in Cleveland's Glenville neighborhood, to help kick-start their small businesses.
Brittany Lee Matthews was originally a stay-at-home mom before taking the opportunity to open her store House of B Jewels at GlenVillage.
"My daughter who's nine, I really tried to instill in her that you can do and be whatever it is that you want to be. So that's why I started this business."
House of B Jewels is one of six current businesses based in the mixed-use development at E. 105th Street and Ashbury Ave.
"So I knew about GlenVillage, even before it opened," she recalled. "I did go through a rigorous process where the board interviewed me just to make sure that I was a good fit for here. I'm very thankful for this space."
For Karen Ross, owner of Cleveland Cold Brew Coffee & Cafe, keeping black business in the black community is important.
"I grew up in a neighborhood similar to this and to go from seeing us owning businesses, to us not owning businesses and other people coming into our communities and taking over. It's very special to me to be a black entrepreneur in a black neighborhood that's on the rise. This is almost like sacred ground right here."
GlenVillage officially opened in January of 2020 - but early excitement was dampened by pandemic closures.
"Of course, we got hit with the challenges with the pandemic," Ross recalled. "You know, by the grace of God, I'm still here and was able to take advantage of a lot of federal funding that was available for COVID."
But even with federal backing, these business owners say support from the community is the most needed aspect to long-term success. For Matthews, the road has not always been smooth.
"It's been a rollercoaster ride. To be honest, some months are really, really good. Some months are just like, ah, is this thing on."
Now, Matthews says, is more important than ever, to support black-owned businesses.
"Now we're just making sure we raise awareness and just trying to get people back out," she explained.
"I think we, our own people, we need to continue to support our businesses," Ross said. "We can't leave it up to the allies or other people. We need to support our own businesses. And we as businesses, we have to earn that support. We have to be professional. We have to give a good presentation in order to have people come back and patronize us."
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