Sycamore & Oak Retail Village: A Beacon for Black-Owned Businesses in D.C.

    In June 2023, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the opening of Sycamore & Oak Retail Village, a community-owned retail center aimed at providing Black-owned businesses with resources they often lack for starting and growing their enterprises.

    PBS Newshour reported that the initiative has been a significant success. Keyonna Jones, owner of Soufside Creative, an art and apparel shop, described the village as “a tribe, like a Black Wall Street tribe.”

    Sycamore & Oak has been an incredible resource for my business,” Jones said. “It has served as an incubator where we learn all the professional skills needed for growth.” Despite this success, most Black-owned businesses do not benefit from such targeted support and continue to face significant challenges.

    Bridget Weston, CEO of SCORE, a nonprofit business mentoring organization, noted that conversations with Black business owners reveal persistent systemic challenges. “Black entrepreneurs face the same nationwide issues due to systemic problems,” Weston stated. “They struggle more with lack of childcare, COVID-19 impacts, and limited access to funding.”

    RELATED: Putting The “Us” in Business

    Chris Pyrate, owner of Chris Pyrate & Friends, a streetwear and art gallery in the retail center, emphasized the importance of avoiding gentrification. “I love that it starts all local,” Pyrate said. “It can be a destination in Southeast without being a heavily gentrified project, maintaining accessibility and a sense of community.”

    Jones hopes the village’s success will inspire other Black-owned businesses. “I hope Black entrepreneurs realize they have a supportive space to thrive. The community keeps me sharp and ensures I work at my highest potential,” she told PBS Newshour.

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