Supporting Black small businesses while enjoying Minneapolis city parks
This summer, markets featuring local artisans and small businesses are giving visitors one more reason to pay a visit to some popular Minneapolis Parks.
“With our Park Markets we’ve curated a range of vendors selling local and handmade goods. We want to showcase and support our local people who are contributing to the vibrancy of Minneapolis,” said Erica Chua, spokeswoman for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
Visitors have the opportunity to support a number of vendors of color who are pitching their tents and selling their specialties. Park Markets are running on Wednesdays at Downtown Commons, Fridays at Water Works Park and Minnehaha Regional Park and Sundays at Lake Harriet. (See below for exact times and locations).
Each Park Market is staged at the same time there is a concert in the park featuring live local music.
“I’m introducing a new network of customers to what I’m doing. But the best part of being here is that I just love being outside!” enthused Opal Robinson, standing beneath her Inner Peace Fragrance tent.
On a recent Friday at Minnehaha Regional Park, Robinson was selling her hand-dipped incense sticks, ash towers, imported African black soap, candles and other fragrant items to passers-by taking an evening stroll along a walkway curving between the famed Minnehaha Falls and Sea Salt restaurant.
In February, Robinson opened Inner Peace Fragrance, a store located at 1200 W. Broadway in the Zarah Building in North Minneapolis. She thinks that through her presence at the Minnehaha Park Market, she’s connecting with folks who might never walk into her brick-and-mortar location.
“There’s a cross-section of the city here,” Robinson said. “It’s nice to get their support. We’re out here making it happen; small business owners hire and provide income for people.”
Robinson’s tent stood beneath the park’s tall oaks among about a dozen vendors selling artisan items including locally made hot sauce, bath and body products, jewelry and plants.
Carmen Elate and Jacques Elate-Joss operate a new business called Atelier Mamako, based in South Minneapolis. They sell hand-made patches that patrons buy to stitch onto their jeans, jackets, backpacks and other items of apparel. They also sell one-of-a-kind fabric-covered notebooks and journals and other freestyle textile art made of scraps of denim and colorful patterned material that they create in their home studio.
“We’ve just started selling our work and this is an affordable way for a new business to make an impression,” said Carmen.
The couple has collected fabric for years, much of it sourced from Africa; Jacques is a native of Cameroon. After they both recently retired from their teaching careers, they are devoting themselves to creating and selling their fabric patchwork.
“We are artists first and we are building a following,” Jacques added. “It’s great for the community to be in this public space. After COVID-19, being present and together again means a lot.”