Wigs, Valentine’s Day-themed candy baskets, healthcare uniforms, jewelry and clothes lined the walls of Cypress & Grove Brewing Company Saturday afternoon.
Gainesville family business Sistah’s Synergy hosted the “I am Black, I am Love” themed pop-up shop to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and Black History Month.
Mother Kendra Johnson, sisters Keoni Ellis and Chaquala “Quala” Ellis founded Sistah’s Synergy last year.
Sistah’s Synergy decided to get together small Black businesses that wanted to flourish, but it didn't know where to start, Chaquala said. The owners started small events like the pop-up to promote their businesses.
From noon to 4 p.m., 14 small business owners sold their store’s products on decorated tables lining the walls of the room.
Chaquala expected about 40 people to visit. An hour into the event, about 11 people shopped, she said.
“Two years ago I got obsessed with the whole Black Wall Street idea,” she said. “I just thought it'd be awesome to see so many different people of all shapes and colors to just be able to sell [our products] versus anybody going to Walmart and Target.”
Chaquala started her Gainesville hair care business, Blessed Crownes, with homemade products that styled her and her daughter’s hair.
She started her braiding career at 14 years old, styling her mom’s, sisters’ and cousins’ hair. At 16, she began building clientele.
She led her own table at the pop-up shop.
Hair oils and butters, men’s facial care products, waist beads and facial jewelry filled Blessed Crownes’ booth. Chaquala crafted custom jewelry for her customers at the end of her table.
She invited her clients to the event. Some attended as vendors, while others shopped as customers.
Kailey Wade, a 30-year-old systems research administrator in Jacksonville, set up her painting booth after Chaquala invited her to be a vendor.
Paintings of faceless Black women with diverse hair styles line her “K. Lauren Creations.”
Afros, detailed braids, high puffs, wavy half-up-half-down and wrapped styles were displayed in her colorful art.
“I have been doing paintings since I was young,” Wade said. “Art has always had a special place in my heart, so this is just something I do on the side to relieve stress.”
Wade’s artwork caters to Black individuals, she said. Her pieces have bold backgrounds that center on Black women.
At her first pop-up, she sold seven out of eight of her paintings, and she hoped to clear her table like that once more.
Wade sees the event as an opportunity for Gainesville vendors to showcase their stuff.
“Being a part of this, it’s fun and amazing,” she said.
Tucked in the corner of the room, Brittney Harris, 32, stood beside her table stacked with sex toys ranging in color, shape, size and purpose.
Harris saw Chaquala was hosting an event and knew she wanted to be part of it.
“I actually saw that she was doing a Black-owned Valentine's Day themed pop-up shop and I was like: ’Well, that's super dope,’” she said.
She sold three products by 1:30 p.m. Harris handed business cards to people walking by to purchase online for discretion.
Harris said she doesn’t see a lot of Black-owned adult toy sellers. The event was a great way to get exposure for her online store, Plenty of Freaks.
When she wasn’t educating customers about her products, she visited other booths set up in the room.
Anisha Dixon, a 30-year-old hair stylist, attended the pop-up shop to support her Florida School of Traditional Midwifery classmate, Alayna Jones, who sold Valentine-themed treats.
“It’s just a cute, nice event,” Dixon said. “Everybody has a lot of cool things going on.”
Dixon spent 30 minutes visiting booths and catching up with friends. She purchased a wig kit from Tracey Wells’ Flashy Fashion’s booth.
Growing up, Chaquala attended Gainesville's art festivals. She hopes her pop-up events will support and give back to the community.
“I really want to see all of them grow to further than where they are now because I know a lot of them don't want to be in the spot that they are [now],” Chaquala said.
Contact Thandie Brown at email@example.com or follow her at @decidedlioness.
Thandie Brown is a journalism student at UF and a reporter on the Metro beat. This is her first semester at the Alligator, and when she is not writing, she is photographing. You may find her in the Plaza of Americas dressed in a jeans jacket decorated with her favorite things.