A new website, LoudounShopsBlack.com, is helping Loudouners find Black-owned businesses to support right here at home.
In a time when many people are making a renewed effort to grapple with racial inequality in the country, some people in Loudoun wanted to help out with their wallets.
“I just feel like me and a lot of other allies grapple with, what can we actually do?” said Leah Fallon, one of the website’s founders and a white woman. “We work on educating ourselves and our children, but I really felt like I wanted to do something, and the pocketbook is what I feel like is most powerful. In my daily life, I do try to make decisions on where I shop to kind of show where my support lies, so I thought that that would be a good resource for other allies.”
While there are websites Facebook groups for Black-owned businesses across the country and region, it can be difficult to find out which local businesses in Loudoun are Black or minority owned. Fallon started there, and when she threw out the idea of a page specifically for Loudoun, she said she got a big, positive response. She said the idea was to make it easy to find those businesses.
The website launched on Tuesday, July 7, Blackout Day—a day when shoppers were encouraged to do all their spending at Black-owned businesses.
One of the first businesses listed on the page was Elite Formation Studio of Dance in Sterling. The owner, Chequena Morris-Hall, started the business after watching her daughter dance at a different studio. She said the ballet was fine, the jazz dancing was fine, but the hip-hop was wrong.
“The hip-hop was to Britney spears, and I think Britney is amazing—she’s a little crazy at times—but her music and her dancing skill’s amazing, but she’s not hip-hop,” Morris-Hall said. “So made it through that dance season, and I cried every time I saw her perform.”
The next year was worse, she said, with the 8-year-olds were dancing to TLC’s “Creep,” a song about infidelity, complete with the costumes and dance moves.
“It was so painful for me to watch, it was stereotypical,” Morris-Hall said. “I literally started my studio in the parking lot of that one. So I didn’t know what to do, but I knew what I could no longer tolerate.”
Morris-Hall had only done step dancing herself, but with only a few dollars in her pocket, she began calling dance instructors from across the region.
“I just wanted to create something authentic for our children, because I couldn’t let my daughter grow up with his tainted, copyright version of dance,” Morris-Hall said.
Now, the business is more than a dance school—it also hosts bible study, book clubs, holiday parties, and activities for grown-ups, among other things. Morris-Hall said she wanted to createa a sense of community.
“Our children, African-American children, or any child who doesn’t look like the majority, need to be able to see themselves in others, and a lot of our kids are the only Black child in their classroom, or it’s them and one other one,” she said. “When my daughter was four, she wanted to know why nobody on TV looked like her, but then Doc McStuffins came out.”
Another Black local business owner, Silas Redd, runs Nostalgia Boutique vintage clothing store in Purcellville. With the pandemic on, he has had to adapt, and recently began selling his clothes online for the first time.
“I will admit it to anybody—I never wanted to be an online business, never,” Redd said. “It’s just not what I like. I like being brick and mortar, people coming in and giving them that experience, that whole face-to-face interaction.”
But with a surge of thousands of new followers after a shoutout from a vintage clothing seller in New York City, who Redd said has been at the forefront of posting about Black-owned vintage boutiques, he decided to start selling online.
“It was just time, and if I didn’t strike while the iron’s hot… I would be doing my business a disservice if I didn’t,” Redd said.
“It’s very important for us to invest in us, and I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with spending your money anywhere, but in order for us to reach that higher height, to be more present in the community, it’s helpful if the money is kept in the community,” Morris-Hall said.
And, she said, “it’s just really important that we create an excellent product that people are satisfied with.”
“There’s a lot more eyes on Black-owned businesses now because of everything that’s going on, but I’m kind of like, any business, to me, is great,” Redd said. “I don’t want people to shop at my store just because I’m a Black-owned business, and I’ve never experienced that. I’m kind of like, people shop at my store because they like my inventory, and I try to treat every single person with integrity.”
Nonetheless, he said, it’s great to see so many people taking an interest in his passion.
“I do think it’s important, however, to highlight Black-owned and minority-owned business, because oftentimes they’re kind of overshadowed,” Redd said.