Several Black Lives Matter protests have occurred on Long Island in the weeks since the George Floyd killing on May 25. However, since New York state is still coping with the coronavirus pandemic, some people have not been able to take part in the protests. As a result, people are resorting to showing their support for the movement in other ways.
Shopping at black-owned businesses is something that many activists have deemed necessary during this time. Black business owners in West Hempstead talked about the importance of supporting black-owned businesses in the community.
“One way to build a community is obviously through wealth,” said Sagine Pierre-Charles, the West Hempstead Chamber of Commerce’s vice president. “When you support a black-owned business, you’re literally putting money back in your community.”
Pierre-Charles, who is the owner of Sage & Angie Boutique on Nassau Boulevard, opened her retail store in 2017. Pierre-Charles, of West Hempstead, said she saw the need for a boutique in the community. So she decided to fill that need through her business. Recognizing the diversity in the community, she sought to make sure her items cater to people of different backgrounds. Due to the pandemic, the boutique is now providing masks and hand sanitizer to customers to ensure a safe shopping experience. Sage & Angie employees are also steaming all clothing that is tried on and not bought.
Coronavirus concerns have become an inevitable aspect of consumers’ experience as well. Businesses everywhere have had to change their policies and products because of the new precautions that were implemented. Sydney’s Sweets is no exception to this. The bakery on Hempstead Avenue has had to adjust to the lack of large gatherings since the lockdown took effect in March.
“We turned ourselves from an in-store retail location to curbside pick-up and nationwide shipping,” said Jermaine Perry, co-owner and pastry chef. “This is a season where we’re usually doing graduations, weddings and large birthdays, which would have anywhere from 50-150 guests. Now all of our cakes are 20 and under, which is a very big difference.”
Perry and his wife, Sydney, founded Sydney’s Sweets in 2013. Their cakes have garnered the attention of various television shows such as WE tv’s “Bridezillas” and “The Tamar and Vince Show.” The Perrys said they pride themselves in making “a product that people would expect out of Manhattan” right here in West Hempstead.
#Who Got Next? on Woodfield Road is a hair studio and barbershop. The owner, Kim Burke, also runs her own day care business. Usually, the shop is known for being a family-friendly environment.
Now Burke is only able to see a couple of clients a day. She has her hands full keeping her clients safe and providing them with quality services at the same time. Despite the changes brought about by the pandemic, Burke has noticed a silver lining.
“Since Covid-19, there’s [been] more support coming from the community,” she said.
In the past, Burke had noticed a lack of support from people within West Hempstead. Although buying at black-owned businesses has become very trendy in recent weeks, these businesses have existed in the community for years.
Burke said she hoped to see more support of these businesses going forward.