Black Business Owners, Facing Gentrification, Explain How To Thrive In NYC

By Shaye Weaver
amNewYork, New York

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As columnist Shaye Weaver reports, “Janifer Wilson has made her bookstore all about community, and it has sustained her. Not only does Sisters Uptown Bookstore sell literature, but it acts as a hub for artists, poets, avid readers and others who need a space to share in the community.”

amNewYork, New York

Almost 20 years ago, Janifer Wilson noticed that Harlem’s bookstores were disappearing one by one, something she couldn’t stand as a woman dedicated to preserving African-American culture and history.

She decided to launch her own, and rented a space on the ground floor of her apartment building that would become a community hub for literature, art and culture.

Her shop, Sisters Uptown Bookstore, is becoming something of a rarity as bookstores in general face stiff competition from online sellers like Amazon.com, but the overall number of black-owned businesses is falling, too, according to a 2017 report by Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office.

From 2007 to 2012, gentrification helped shutter many black-owned businesses, the study says. Whereas in 2007, African-Americans owned 13 percent of all businesses in the Bronx and 5 percent in Queens, they owned 6 percent and 3 percent, respectively, in 2012, the report says. New York City is one of only three large cities to see a decline even though the number of black-owned businesses across the nation actually grew by 2.4 percent in that time period.

With August designated as National Black Business Month — an effort to bolster the black business community with support — we spoke with African-American entrepreneurs about how they are surviving in New York City.
Here are some of their lessons:

Be passionate
Running a business is challenging and if you’re not in love with what you’re doing, it may be impossible to last.
When Wilson was on the verge of opening Sisters Uptown Bookstore, people told her outright “you’re not going to make it because black people don’t read,” she told amNewYork.

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