As protests continue in Wilmington and across the nation, calling for an end to police brutality and justice for the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, countless Americans have shown their support by shopping at black-owned businesses.
In New York City, Aurora James, founder of the sustainable accessories brand Brother Vellies, launched the 15 Percent Pledge—a charity calling for major retailers, such as Target and Sephora, to pledge 15% of their shelf space to black-owned businesses. In San Francisco the crowd-sourced reviewing site Yelp announced a new tool that will make it easier for users to search for black-owned businesses. Here in Wilmington, screenshots have circulated on social media of a directory listing black-owned area businesses. It’s all part of a sustained effort to attack systemic racism by funneling money back into black communities, many of which have also been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The screenshots, it turns out, are from Port City Gazette. The biannual, free periodical allows black and minority-owned businesses to list their services and events free of charge. It also contains articles on everything from small business marketing to weight loss and tips for protecting your health.
“The whole purpose is to increase the city’s knowledge of what our black businesses have to offer and, more importantly, how to contact them,” says Shannon McLucas, Port City Gazette’s co-founder and editor-in-chief.
McLucas started the magazine with her husband in 2016. The couple had previously published a collection of ad pages for Wilmington-area beauty salons and barbershops called “Style Scene” from 2006 to 2008. In 2007 they opened Choices Design Copy & Print, a family-run print shop on Princess Street downtown. Soon after, the Great Recession hit. McLucas says their business wouldn’t have survived if it weren’t for the support of black customers.
“During the course of our 10-plus years at Choices, I was aware that many black people were concerned with the lack of support for black businesses,” she says. “It occurred to me one of the problems may have been just not knowing what black businesses existed in Wilmington. We then came to realize the plethora of black businesses in all categories that had utilized our services over the years.”
Four years later, Port City Gazette has grown to include listings for over 125 business and counting. “We want to see that number at least double,” says McLucas.
The magazine depends on a volunteer staff working remotely and is funded entirely through advertisement sales. It can be picked up at Choices and at Fu Wangz on Carolina Beach Road, as well as storefront locations of its advertisers. A new issue will be released on June 16 and will be updated every two months through November.
McLucas says she has noticed an uptick in both business listings and traffic to the Port City Gazette website. She is grateful for the added exposure the protests have brought her business.
“The more business listings, the better the magazine,” she adds. “To have so many people have the same feeling of the need to support our black businesses, especially during these times, makes me feel proud of our community in particular because we are taking action.”
She is also quick to point out that, while Port City Gazette aims to uplift black businesses, it “is not a local magazine ‘for black businesses only.’ It’s a platform for people who are interested in and want to contribute to, learn from and even be inspired by black business affairs in Wilmington and surrounding areas.”
According to a 2012 Census, minority-owned businesses make up just 13.5% of all Wilmington businesses—this in spite of the fact that racial and ethnic minorities make up roughly 24% of the city’s population. Despite steady growth in recent years, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency found in 2010 that minority-owned businesses are less likely to be approved for financing than those with white owners. They also receive smaller loan amounts with higher interest rates and shorter pay-back durations. It’s a problem people like McLucas and the recently formed African American Business Council are looking to address.
“Building credit, let alone business credit is hard enough without having any double standards being applied,” says McLucas. “Organizations that cater to minority-owned businesses not only help more minorities feel confident about starting and sustaining a business, but they could help make funding more available. I believe if the public sees more strong black and minority businesses being successful, it will add to the credibility of the market and paint minority businesses in a more favorable light.”
Business owners can submit their business or event listing to Port City Gazette by emailing all pertinent information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ads can be sent to email@example.com. Ad rates and specifications, as well as an editorial calendar, can be found in the magazine’s media kit. To become a distributor, sign up at portcitygazette.com/become-a-distributor.
Port City Gazette
New issue out June 16