I love supporting Black and brown businesses and doing so is part of my value system — from clothing, self-care items, professional services to food. Now, due to the racial enlightenment underway in our society, there is a growing movement for white people to support (and hopefully love) Black businesses too. On my social feeds, I have witnessed a flurry of national support to Black-owned businesses including locals such as The Missing Brick and Sip and Share Wines. My hope is that there are sustained changes in behavior, attitudes and beliefs that allow this trend to grow into a long-term movement versus amount to a mountain of one-time investments.
At the same time, Black businesses are experiencing a swell in support, they are faced with the challenge of how to stay in business during a pandemic. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the Black community, not only in terms of health but also in terms of business ownership. Economist Robert W. Fairlie of University of California, Santa Cruz reports a 40% closure rate for Black businesses owners at the start of this summer as a result of the pandemic (The Washington Post). Efforts like Black Restaurant Week (Midwest July 24-Aug. 2) continue to coordinate events and connect Black restaurant owners to COVID-19 resources that address business downturn and new health and safety standards. I can also see anecdotally that businesses that are able to improve online ordering, integrate delivery services and provide carry out options are faring the best during this time.
Unfortunately, Indianapolis is unlikely to deviate from these trends.
This week 16 Tech Community Corporation (16TCC) unveiled the branding for its innovation hub, now named HQO. Set to open in early 2021, HQO will become one of the liveliest places to be in the heart of the district. With 100,000 square feet of space, the building will be home to flexible office space, a makerspace, and an artisan marketplace called the AMP. HQO will be a center of creativity in 16 Tech and the AMP artisan marketplace and event space will be an essential component showcasing local culinary innovation.
“The goal is for the AMP to become the living room for Indianapolis as well as 16 Tech,” said Chef Craig Baker, lead operator for the AMP, “It is a place where all are welcome to attend an event, pick up a few market items or meeting a friend for a bite and/or drink.”
The AMP will feature a variety of spaces available to diverse cuisine vendors including food stalls, a culinary incubator, a community prep kitchen, containers spaces for operators that don’t require a hood (think sushi, salad or chocolate) in addition to temporary pop-up spaces. In just a couple of years people will begin living in 16 Tech too. Residents on-site and in the neighboring communities will have a place to access a variety of food and market items. In a pandemic and post-pandemic economy, smaller-scale operations with less overhead and easy online ordering and delivery access will be necessary to pivot from traditional restaurant models and the AMP is perfectly equipped for those adaptations.
Black restaurants owners and culinary starts-ups must take advantage of this opportunity and be represented in this space. Interested business owners need to have a solid business plan if they are just starting out, or a solid business expansion model if they are existing business owners. Having an inclusive culture in the district must be evident in all aspects of this unique place from offices and labs to food and events. If you have a recommendation for a Black business owner we should connect with or you are a black business owner that wants to learn more, please contact us. I do not want our Black community to miss this opportunity.
Starla Hart is the director of community initiatives at 16 Tech Community Corporation and contributor for the Indianapolis Recorder. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.