All Black-owned businesses qualify for a spot on U.E.L.'s shelves
As shoppers begin trying to put on their best Santa Claus impression, Granville Island is getting more diverse with its stocking-stuffer options. This week, the Black Business Association of BC (BBABC) celebrated the opening of Unity, Excellence, Legacy (UEL), a 1000 sq. ft. store in Granville Island’s Net Loft building dedicated to selling products from Black-owned brands in Canada.
A year and a half ago, the BBABC hosted a nine-week pop-up shop for Canadian Black-owned businesses at the Bentall Centre. Entrepreneurs came in on a rotating basis and manned their own space for a week or two, and even though the pop-up was a success, the Surrey-based nonprofit—which supports Black entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout the country—wanted to have a more long-lasting impact.
“To have more businesses being showcased at the same time, we decided we would have the space and then invite vendors to sell their product within the space,” says BBABC president Nerissa Allen. “We can have as many vendors as can fit on the shelves here.”
According to Allen, one of the biggest challenges that Black entrepreneurs face is finding a permanent retail spot for their business. For the BBABC, securing a high-traffic location for that was particularly difficult during the pandemic because while most places were closed, the organization was looking for exposure to both tourists and locals. National housing agency CMHC (which is well-versed in tourist engagement) played an integral role in bringing the organization’s vision into fruition, particularly when it came to getting organized and capitalizing on the site.
“The vibe as well—we wanted it to feel artistic because our artisans are artistic,” adds Allen. And she’s right—the store’s rustic elegance is both inviting and intriguing, with products ranging from food and skincare to clothing, artwork and home goods. Anyone with a retail-ready product is eligible for a spot, and vendors don’t need to man their own space like they did at the pop-up.
For now, the BBABC has been able to accommodate everyone that’s requested to be a part of this initiative. But Allen admits that that might no longer be the case in a year’s time: “I guess we'll be looking at what products are best suited for this location and the clientele that come here to Granville Island so that we don't have products sitting on a shelf. We want to make sure that everyone is selling.”