CENTRAL WEST END – On Wednesday afternoon, black-owned businesses set up shop in the Cortex Commons for For the Culture STL’s first-ever Black Owned Pop Up Shop.
Forty vendors participated in the event, offering an array of merchandise, including jewelry, food, drink, clothing and art. There were also a few mobile boutiques featured, including a mobile barber shop.
This event was made possible by For the Culture STL, an online directory of black businesses, events and catalogs with a focus on the St. Louis community. Founder and St. Louis resident Ohun Ashe said the idea for the directory occurred to her after the events in Ferguson in 2014 and the Jason Stockley protests in 2017.
“I was heavily involved with those things, and after the protests and everything started dying down, I started realizing, like, what was it that I wanted to do outside of that? I wasn’t into politics. I wasn’t into policy, so I was like, ‘What else is there?’” Ashe said.
Ultimately, she decided to use her energy and resources to “cultivate spaces for black businesses,” something she saw as both lacking and vital here.
As far as the event side of the business, Ashe said that venture started with the opening of the “Black Panther” movie last year. Renting out a theater at 24:1 Cinema, she got a group together to watch the movie and then patronize a local black-owned restaurant afterward to discuss it.
From there, she added more events to the lineup, from game nights to a Culture Kickback in Forest Park last August.
This is the first time she’s hosted a pop-up of this nature, and she said it was important exposure for the community.
“The community really looks for events like this, and spaces where black-owned businesses are needed and necessary,” she said. “Just to even let people know that we exist.”
One of the vendors, Dary, who sells handmade, flavored pickles through her shop Miss Dary’s Pickles, said she appreciated all the events thrown by For the Culture STL.
“This is probably my fourth or fifth event with them,” she said. “I love each and every event. I love the atmosphere, the environment, the people, and even though it’s a black-owned pop-up shop, of course, it’s not limiting anyone from attending, so I appreciate it.”