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The Downtown Long Beach Alliance is committed to celebrating, recognizing, and supporting the Black-owned businesses of Downtown Long Beach not only through February’s Black History Month, but throughout the year.

We are pleased to once again introduce you to some of the owners who operate great establishments in Downtown. The following 23 interviews, including with several new owners, are a living, breathing, and growing resource for our community. We encourage you to read and share the stories of our Black-Owned businesses in Downtown as well as visit their websites and storefronts.

As we learn of additional businesses and as new Black entrepreneurs join our community, we will continue to share the stories and promote them through our newsletters, social media accounts, website, and marketing campaigns including our interactive map at DTLB.org/support-black-owned.

If you know of a business that should be added to this list and the map, please contact Communications Manager Michael Berman at MichaelB@dlba.org.

Photograph by Jose Cordon

Afros of Hollywood
Owner: Teves Lee
562-326-6308
115 Pine Ave #330, Long Beach, CA 90802
Afrosofhollywood.com
Hours: Mon 12-6 PM, Tue-Thurs 9AM – 7PM, Fri-Sat 9AM – 8PM
Services: Barbershop/Salon

Master Barbering Academy
562.676.6454
406 E 3rd St Long Beach, CA 90802
masterbarberingacademy.com
Services: Beauty School

What inspired you to start your business?
I am a 5th generation barber.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
We service all nationalities, all types of hair, offer a multitude of services, like hair, makeup, hair restoration, micro scalp pigmentation, and locktician services.

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
I would like to see Afros continue to grow within the Long Beach community. I want to expand the shop when I find a bigger location to include other day spa services that service the black community (black skin, black hair).

What is the best way the community can support your business?
Come and get a haircut! Send everyone to get a haircut, no matter what nationality.

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
3

Photograph by Jose Cordon

amaraREPS
Owner: Amara Omoregie
www.amaraREPS.com
562-263-7090
Services: Business planning, marketing, development

What inspired you to start your business?
I initially wanted to create an online Sephora or Ulta that had products and education that were catered towards women of color. In 2005 it was impossible to find anything and I would have to drive over an hour or two to get what I needed. During my quest to create such a service, I learned the ecosystem that is digital marketing. I really wanted to be a part of the solution for small businesses; I was sick of seeing them fail, especially when most of them just need better marketing and a better understanding of how to get in front of their target audience.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
We don’t look at what’s popular, we look at what’s possible in terms of growth. We believe in planning for the future and really doubling down on building sustainable campaigns and programs that stand the test of time, are cost effective, and support the growth and health of the business.

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
I really want to work with students in college or even high school at some point, and help them better understand marketing and how they can make an awesome career in this space. I also have been wanting to do more on the sales operations/sales enabling side of things. I love working with sales teams and all of their energies. They are on the front lines, communicating with customers and prospects.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
If you have a sales team and need help implementing a Customer Relationship Plan that your team will actually use, and if you want to update your sales and marketing collateral, I would love to help. I can provide insight into how to maximize and optimize your sales efforts, and streamline communications. Visit amarareps.com, and send us a message!    

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
There are 12 of us. Some simply work on projects, and others are full time.

Photograph by Jose Cordon

The Beach House
Owner: Greta Simbler
562-668-2933
429 Shoreline Village Drive # T
Hours: Fri-Sun, 12:30-5:30 PM
Services: Gift shop specializing in local and unique finds.

What inspired you to start your business?
I spent a lot of time at the beach as a child, and we used to visit The Pike all the time and have beach parties. It’s never left me! I’m a professional cook and I was injured, so I decided to go back to what I love and open up a little beach-themed gift shop.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
A lot of merchandise that I carry is from local artists and is one of a kind. I try to carry things that you don’t see very often and are unique.

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
I would love to expand my love of the beach and cooking by opening an eatery with a gift shop attached.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
Explore Shoreline Village! There are all kinds of hidden treasures down here. 

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
No employees, I’m a one-man show! I would love to hire 3, but right now that’s just a dream.

Photograph by Jose Cordon

DreamKreator Studios
Owner: Rhonda Love
Dreamkreatorstudio.com
562-310-4944
121 Linden Ave.

What inspired you to start your business?
I really love community and telling stories. I’m a creative person and I love self-expression. We thought, how cool would it be to create this world where we can combine that passion with media and live events and be a conduit for people to have great experiences? You can learn, grow from, and be proud of your creations.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
We are here for the community, we love our community, and we’ve spent our lives in that area. For years, my partner and I produced live events. We want the community to know that we’re here and growing and looking forward to bringing more creativity to the community. We’re also interested in partnering with other organizations that seek to help and support the community.

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
Right now our immediate plan is to create more virtual events and content. We’re in production on a couple of projects, and our plan is to make them available virtually. Our company opened in October 2018. We’re taking all the experience that we have and are creating more content and experiences.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
Follow us on Facebook and engage in our virtual events. Help us by being part of our community.

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
It’s my partner Greg and I. We have some college students that work with us from CSULB and LBCC, as interns or on an as-needed basis.

Photograph by Jose Cordon

Duck Group
Owner: Aaron Duckett
www.duckgroup.com
133 Promenade North, Ste. #109
562-481-7386
Services: Realtor specializing in the Downtown Long Beach luxury homes real estate market.  

What inspired you to start your business?
My love of real estate, and the desire to help people achieve their real estate dreams.
Additionally, a burning desire to determine my own destiny by being an entrepreneur and living the American dream.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
I have been living and working in Downtown Long Beach for over 14 years. I work, play, exercise, network and send my kids to school here in Long Beach. I love Long Beach and its people! I have a deep passion and love of real estate which drives my business to provide top-notch real estate services.

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
We plan to increase our market share, reach and listings throughout Long Beach. We also plan to develop a mentor program, and to increase our charitable giving in Downtown Long Beach.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
By using us for their residential real estate needs in Long Beach, whether it be selling, buying, leasing or managing their homes.

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
No employees, just two real estate agents who are independent contractors.

Photograph by Jose Cordon

Fuller Management Corporation
Owner: Kena Fuller
fullerpros.com
200 Pine Ave., Suite 503
Long Beach, CA 90802
562-628-5575
Services: Business development, coaching, and advisement.

What inspired you to start your business?
Several years back I found my love for business development and the coaching aspect of working with entrepreneurs. I was working in the corporate environment and really loved my profession but felt limited by the confines of the framework. Rather than “deal with” the circumstance of my environment, I chose to leap out on faith and start Fuller Management Corporation as a way to share the love of my work with the individuals and organizations within our small business community.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
Fuller Management is not your everyday consulting firm. We like to say, “we are not a one-size-fits-all type of company”. As an entrepreneur myself, I know and understand the ups and downs of business ownership. Because of this, coaching and business development are always part of our customized approach to working with clients. And, by taking this approach with every organization we serve, our clients become friends, and there is no other way I would rather have it.

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
As a company, Fuller Management plans to expand its service offerings to work with more entrepreneurs in a planning and educational/technical assistance type of capacity. We plan to expand operation and our team to enhance our reach and to be of extended support within our small business community.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
By supporting each other. We completely believe and agree that it takes a village. Word-of-mouth is one of the primary ways most small business align with new opportunities. As long as we maintain a sense of community, everyone wins.

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
Our work is both term and project based. On average, we are a team of four and are looking to grow over the next couple of years.

Photograph by Jose Cordon

In The Cut Barbershop
Owner: Levi Williams
853 Atlantic Avenue, #101
562-317-5124
Services: High-quality hair care and grooming in contemporary and traditional styles. 

What inspired you to start your business?
My father owned a barber shop in Chicago for 54 years before he passed. After years of working in other barber shops, I wanted to create a classic shop like his, with top-quality service and atmosphere.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
Everything I have is by God’s grace and mercy. As a two-time cancer survivor, I have a new attitude and outlook on life. I tried to create an atmosphere in the barbershop where everyone who comes in will feel comfortable and safe.

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
I hope the shop is here for many years serving the community while being a beneficial presence for future Black entrepreneurs.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
Patronize the shop. Come in and check it out. If they approve, they can tell a friend or two.

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
I have three barbers at this time. At full capacity I’ll have six.

Photograph by Jose Cordon

Ladie Kakes
Owner: Ashley Arnold
www.ladiekakes.com
626-935-9293
235 E. Broadway
Hours: M-F, 9 AM – 5 PM. Closed Sat-Sun
Services: Maker and seller of baked goods and whoopie pies.

What inspired you to start your business?
I’ve always loved food and being creative. So, Ladie Kakes has allowed for me to meld both together and make a living doing something that I love. What started as a passion project is now a small business that is steadily growing.  

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
Everything is handmade with love! My heart filled by the customers’ reactions to Ladie Kakes

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
I want to open a storefront and continue serving my awarding winning Whoopie Pies. I would love to become a staple in the DTLB area.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
Right now I’m in three farmers markets in Long Beach, so come see me! On Tuesdays I am at Bixby Park from 3-7 PM, Wednesdays at Marine Stadium 3-7 PM, and Sundays at Spring Street and Clark Avenue, 8 AM – 1 PM.

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
It’s just me!

Photograph by Jose Cordon

Law Offices of Robin D. Perry
Owner: Robin D. Perry
www.lordp.net
400 Oceangate, Ste. 700
562-216-2944
Services: Providing effective representation to satisfy the legal needs of a diverse client base

What inspired you to start your business?
I started the firm so I could best assist individuals and small businesses. My previous employment as a deputy district attorney and as an associate with a prominent multinational litigation firm were rewarding. However, I did not have the autonomy to choose my own cases.  Once I started my firm I could better align my interests and strengths to the needs of the legal community.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
We have been in business for 22 years right here in Long Beach. We have never done any advertising. Our motto is, ‘don’t just choose a lawyer, choose a partner.’ We very much believe in developing long-term relationships with our clients, and the depth of those relationships has allowed us to better serve our clients, who return and refer others.

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
We hope to double in size by 2025.  When we do that, we can serve more individuals and businesses.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
If you have a legal need, please consider using our firm. If you have used us in the past, please tell others about the high-quality service you received. We are a full-service law firm with attorneys practicing in a wide range of specialized areas. While we specialize in civil litigation and criminal defense, our services encompass nearly all areas of the law, including real estate, business matters, estate planning and contract law.

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
We employ three employees along with an outside investigator and two independent contractors.

Photograph by Jose Cordon

LTN Services
Owner: Chartae Richardson
ltnservicesinc.com
111 W. Ocean Blvd.
877-855-8678
Services: Financial services including accounting and tax preparation.  

What inspired you to start your business?
My inspiration for starting my own business would first stem from seeing my father who was an entrepreneur – a carpenter –  and experiencing going to work with him at a young age. I saw that he was in control of his time, how much gratification it bought him, and the number of families he helped by employing others to work on contracts he secured. From that experience, I dreamt of doing the same.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
I would like the community to know that my business is here to serve. I am in the tax and insurance business, and there is a LOT of educating that takes place due to changing laws and misinformation. I feel the best way to serve is to provide clients with accurate information, provide other helpful resources, such as networking, outside of my business when needed, and  walking the extra mile with my clients until their issues are resolved. Our motto is, ‘The Strength of Our Success is Teamwork!’

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
We offer a variety of business services, so my plan is to continue building this platform in such a way that it allows opportunities for others to come aboard as independent contractors and work for themselves.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
The best way the community can support my business is through patronage and referrals.  I feel that’s true for any business.

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
Right now, as a small business, I’m my only employee. I do outsource work at times, like marketing, but as I stated earlier, my plans are to continue building this platform to provide opportunities for others. That’s going to be a VERY happy moment for me when it manifests.

Photograph by Jose Cordon

Mabel’s Gourmet Pralines & Banana Puddin’
Owner: Saundra Christmas
562-682-7156
625 Pine Ave.
Hours: Tues – Sat 10AM – 4PM
Services: Specialty gourmet pralines and banana pudding, takeout and delivery.

What inspired you to start your business?
In 2000 after a successful fundraiser for my two daughters the orders continued to come in. We formed a family small business. I was shocked the customers loved our Pralines. I sub-leased in a commercial kitchen, 5 years. We sold our Pralines at several farmer markets. In 2006 I was Blessed to secure a cute brick and mortar in the beautiful downtown Long Beach.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
We are committed to producing the best product while only using the freshest and finest ingredients. We stand behind our satisfaction guaranteed or your money back policy.

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
The future plans and goals for our business are to open more days, extend hours, and feature “A Taste of New Orleans of Friday’s.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
We invite the community to come in for a sample and spread the word. That’s how we’ve grown our business over the years the old fashion way “by word of mouth”

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
Currently 1 employee. Once we are fully open I plan to add two employees.

Photograph by Jose Cordon

MVP Consulting Group
Executive Leadership: CEO Martin LaRoche and COO Terrance Dennis
www.mvpconsultinggroup.com
100 Oceangate Suite 1200
562-317-7694
Services: Accreditation, Licensing, and Staffing Consultants for healthcare organizations.

What inspired you to start your business?
The MVP Consulting Group was inspired by the lack of quality care I experienced working in several behavioral healthcare settings throughout my career. Some of those settings included community mental health, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, correctional healthcare facilities, and substance abuse treatment centers.

People who are willing to receive mental health and substance abuse services are usually at the end of the rope and are seeking individualized and quality care from providers. Anything outside of the standard of care is just unacceptable. The MVP Consulting Group partners with healthcare entities and hospitals to provide the appropriate policies/procedures and systems to provide the best possible care. 

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
We are a healthcare consulting firm specializing in licensing and accreditation (Joint Commission, CARF, AAAASF & AAAHC) of healthcare entities. If you are a healthcare provider or an entrepreneur seeking to open a private practice or a healthcare facility, the MVP Consulting Group can walk you through the process from start to finish! Outside of licensing and accreditation, we also provide healthcare staffing. We are able to leverage our extensive network of medical providers to provide our client organizations with the most valuable performers (MVPs).

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
Our number goal is to continue to provide quality services to our client organizations so that they can provide the best possible care to the people they serve. 

Our long-term goal is to establish the capital to fund the MVP Healthcare Corporation, a chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities that will be synonymous with excellence and quality of care. 

What is the best way the community can support your business?
Please spread the word; knowledge and collaboration is power! Information about our services can be found by visiting www.MVPConsultingGroup.com or visiting our Instagram page @MvpConsultationGroup.

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
Our team currently consists of myself, Terrance Dennis (Chief Operating Officer), and Angie Keyes (Group Home & Short Term Residential Therapeutic Program Specialists). Outside of the above, MVP also employs contractors for our financial services.

Courtesy of Sarahi Apaez/Studio LBP

Ovation Square
Owner: Wayne Chaney Jr./Antioch
ovationsquare.com
424.535.1754
350 Pine Ave. Long Beach 90802
Services: Event Center and Exhibition Space.

What inspired you to start your business?
I have always been fascinated with gathering places. Some of the most significant and meaningful memories in my life were made in places where people came together to celebrate and enjoy one another. When we walked through this space, we knew we wanted to create a really special gathering place. The history of the building alone inspired us. Famed Black architect, Paul Revere Williams, is responsible for the building’s current design, and we had the opportunity to restore it to its glory. We knew that to put millions of dollars into the renovation, we would want to make it a place that is activated more than just on Sundays. From the beginning, it was our plan to make this a gathering place for this region’s most celebrated events.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
I think it’s important for the community to know that this space was created with them in mind. In every detail, we considered the people who would gather here, whether on a weekly basis or for a one-night-only event. My heart’s desire was always for the community to have an accessible and excellent venue right here in the heart of Downtown Long Beach.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
The community can support us by giving us the first opportunity to earn their business. They can also share with their circle of influence that there is an all-new, state-of-the-art venue right here in the heart of Long Beach that is equipped to host their most meaningful life moments. We have a capacity of 1100 people and are excited to welcome all into our multi-purpose venue. We are prepared to host concerts, weddings, comedy shows, conferences, art exhibits, and much more!

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
Ovation Square employs thirty-plus in-house staff and contractors that are committed to working with the community to produce unforgettable gatherings year-round.

Boo Johnson with Manager Matt Allen. Photograph by Jose Cordon

Pharmacy Boardshop
Owner: Boo Johnson and Donny Damron
pharmacyboardshop.com
327 Pine Ave.
Hours: Mon-Fri, 10AM – 9PM; Sat, 11AM – 9PM; Sun, 11AM – 5PM
Services: Retail skate shop selling skateboards, attire, and accessories.

What inspired you to start your business?
Well, I’m a professional skateboarder and as a kid growing up Pharmacy Boardshop was my local skate shop. That’s where I got everything for my skateboard and that’s where I learned about so many different skate videos and just built a lot of friendships hanging out there. It was the best place to be growing up as a skateboarder.

Eventually I became good enough and they were my first sponsor, the first people to really support me in my skate career. So let’s go 10+ years down the line, I turn into a professional skateboarder and I happen to be living in Long Beach the past decade, and Jeremy and Donny, they’re the original owners of Pharmacy Boardshops, so they afraid to open up a shop with me in Long Beach and that’s why inspired me to start my business.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
I would love to let everyone in the Long Beach community know that me and my whole team over at Pharmacy Boardshop are here for you guys know matter what, if you need someone to talk to come in and hangout and catch a vibe we want to bring nothing but joy and encouragement throughout the whole city. You don’t have to be a skateboarder to come on in. You don’t have to be big and bad, as long as you’re coming in with good energy and positive vibes, we’re here.

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
My goals for Pharmacy Boardshop Long Beach for us to buy the whole building that we’re currently in and be able to give back with all our space and create a creative space for kids to come after school and hang out and learn how to create designs learn how to build skateboards take inventory little things to mentally and physically grow the next.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
Coming by saying hello, always picking up your trash around the building, Being respectful to everyone in the store I’m just looking out for one another and not missing out on all of our good deals.

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
I have six employees, Matt Allen, Slink, Donny Hixson, Claire Ramirez, Miss Kae, Sean Williams.

Photograph by Jose Cordon

Ubuntu Institute of Learning
Owner: Leigh Lester
www.ubuntulearn.org
235 East Broadway Ave, Ste. 800
562-471-3404
Services: Nonprofit and small business training, consulting, and education.

What inspired you to start your business?
I have been in and around nonprofits for over 28 years. My focus for the past 10 years and the topic of my dissertation is nonprofit sustainability. I started a consulting firm in 2012 to assist nonprofits, and in an effort to show proof of concept, Ubuntu Institute of Learning(UIL) was born. My goal is to model how nonprofit organizations can generate revenue without being heavily dependent on grants and donations, but instead rely on the revenue generated by solving the challenges within the communities they serve. The opportunity for mission – focused revenue generation is there if we can train our eyes to see it.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up until I turned 40. From that day forward, it has been crystal clear. I want to educate and empower those who historically have not had access to the knowledge, tools and resources that others may have had. And I want to do it in a manner that supports Diversity, Equity Inclusion and Belonging(DEIB). I absolutely love teaching. I also love collaborating. So, I would love to find ways to come together as a collective to solve some of the challenges posed by the pandemic. I’ve got some ideas.

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
UIL is embarking on several initiatives in 2021 that we are very excited about. First, we will be launching a three-month coaching program called Sistah 2 Sistah, a community-centered coaching program designed to help women of color overcome any impediments they may have to achieving success. This program is designed for women of color by women of color. This is important now because women and especially black women have been impacted by the pandemic more than any other demographic. Prior to the pandemic they were the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs. Second, we will be collaborating with The National Diversity Council to create a national DEIB certification program. We will continue to offer our monthly trainings preparing Housing Counselors to pass the HUD housing counseling exam. Finally, my passion project: Launch Long Beach. This is a six-month community collaboration to support entrepreneurs in Long Beach with a special focus on those from under-resourced neighborhoods. The program will include entrepreneurial training and mentorship, and the Individual Development Account (IDA), which provides matching funds to help entrepreneurs start their business with little to no debt. Communities around the country are implementing this program with a 95% graduation rate. The first cohort will max out at 20 entrepreneurs.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
There are several ways the community could assist us:
A) We are seeking 10 successful women of color who would volunteer to be guest speakers for our Sistah 2 Sistah coaching program. We would also welcome any donations of self-care gift baskets (minimum of 30 please), and tuition-assistance scholarships to assist the women of color with that impacted by Covid. Finally, help us spread the word. Sign up on our website to be notified of the launch.
B) We are seeking training/consulting opportunities within our four buckets of specialization: affordable housing, nonprofit sustainability, entrepreneurship/Intrapreneurship and DEIB. This work helps us to offset the costs of pour other endeavors.
C) We are seeking community partner volunteers – for example from business and nonprofit groups – for a launch Long Beach initiative. We would also welcome representatives from the Black, the LatinX, and Cambodian communities to help in our outreach efforts and mentorship program. This component is vital to the success of the program.
D) We would love to find several financial partners to provide matching funds for the entrepreneurs who will have an investment requirement along with a mandatory financial education requirement. One of the financial partners will also need to administration of the matching fund component.
E) Lastly, Corporate board mentorship. I have served on many nonprofit boards locally and nationally. I would appreciate an opportunity to expand my wings even further.

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
Currently, there is one employee full-time and there is one part-time volunteer admin. We have been working with CSU Long Beach MBA students for assistance. We will be submitting a request to workforce development to hire a few staffers in the coming weeks. We welcome those who would like to contribute their time and talent to our endeavors.

Courtesy of Sarahi Apaez/Studio LBP

Unite the People
Owner: Ceasar McDowell
unitethepeople.org
888.245.9393
555 E Ocean Blvd, Ste 205
Services: Law corporation & social justice organization

What inspired you to start your business?
Unite the People Inc. is a California-based nonprofit organization formed in 2014 by a small group of concerned citizens, defense attorneys, and families and friends of incarcerated loved ones to fight for social justice and deal with our national problems of mass incarceration and the need for prison and sentencing reform.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
Ceasar McDowell is the Co-Founder & CEO of Unite The People Inc. A formerly incarcerated person who has dedicated his life to assisting the disadvantaged community as well as promoting social justice in the United States. Our organization’s mission is to become a pillar of hope in the lives of the many people affected by incarceration, whether it be individuals who are incarcerated or their families. We aim to bring beneficial change for those disproportionately affected; through community outreach, campaign, and service.

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
Unite the People Inc. will continue educating the public on social justice issues with an emphasis on those involving the criminal justice system, advocate for reform, and provide affordable legal services to those who need them. More specifically, starting in 2022 Unite the People Inc.’s “Community Outreach Tour” will visit local colleges on a successive schedule throughout the state of California offering the community the opportunity to speak with Unite the People Inc.’s staff and celebrities, professional athletes, notable business people, local business owners, merchant wholesalers/ vendors; and gain not only knowledge but access and resources to assist them in gaining the knowledge and opportunity needed for the community to start their own businesses and make the changes they see fit in their communities from a legislative level.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
Our biggest forms of support we’ve found to be donations and volunteering! Your donation would fund the protection of vulnerable communities who have been affected by the criminal justice system, it will fund advocacy for social justice, and it will provide affordable legal services to disadvantaged communities; you can donate to our organization on our website at www.unitethepeople.org/donate. Unite the People, Inc. offers volunteer and program participation opportunities to the members of our community. If you are interested in volunteering or participating in a charity program, please reach out to us via our “Volunteer Tab” at www.unitethepeople.org/volunteer.

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
Unite the People Inc. has an ever-growing staff of concerned citizens, defense attorneys, and families and friends of incarcerated loved ones; currently totaling in a little less than 20 staff members.

Photograph by Jose Cordon

Village Treasures
Owner: Max Viltz
www.villagetreasuresart.com
247 E. Broadway
562-435-3110
Hours: Tues-Sat: 11AM-7PM, Closed Sun-Mon
Services: African gallery, gift shop, and boutique.  

What inspired you to start your business?
After travelling to Africa collecting artifacts, textiles, and other artworks, and subsequently co-founding a local African Studies group, I established Village Treasures to share the rich culture and history of Africa and African Americans.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
I serve on several arts and culture boards and committees in the community. I am currently working in collaboration with the City of Long Beach to establish an African American Cultural Center. This Center will profile African Americans who have made significant contributions to Long Beach and beyond in the areas of arts, entertainment, sports, politics, education, and more. We will also present exhibits relating to the African Diaspora. There will be classes on culture and history including African drum and dance and much more. Stay tuned and go to AACCLB.org for updates.

 What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
I plan to make Village Treasures much more visible through our website, social media and in-store events — post-pandemic, of course. 

What is the best way the community can support your business?
The best way the community can support my business is to acknowledge the challenges of the small local business, and to think of Village Treasures for contemporary and tribal African art items, gift giving, home décor, and personal care items. Please spread the word about our unique and affordable treasures. When Village Treasures does well, we can better serve and give back to the community.

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
I have no full-time employees. I work from time to time with Pacific Gateway, employing interns through their program.

Photograph by Jose Cordon

Von Brinkley Design
Owner: Eric Von Brinkley
www.vonbrinkleybrand.etsy.com
422 E. Broadway
562-544-0264
Services: Unique, local lifestyle brand retailer of clothes and accessories.

What inspired you to start your business?
Von Brinkley Brand developed from my passion for fashion as well as my desire to provide goods and be part of the economic growth for the black community.  

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
Von Brinkley Brand is not just a brand, it’s a lifestyle.  I am drawn to the off-grid way of living. I grow my own food and I am making steps to continuously be self-sustainable. The pieces I create are inspired by my personal style, life experiences, and ultimately my individuality.  When you rock an item from Von Brinkley Brand, be ready to own yourself no matter what setting you’re in.           

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
My plans are to grow Von Brinkley Brand into a major business by making it a staple in the Long Beach community and to also achieve global success.  I want to continue perfecting the clothing line and grow the brand by creating whatever it is my soul leads me to create.  My overall goal is to build generational wealth and pass the business on to my son and grandson.  

What is the best way the community can support your business?
The community can support Von Brinkley Brand by shopping the online store www.vonbrinkleybrand.etsy.com or by visiting the physical store located in East Village Arts District.  If you don’t have the means, the best way you can support is to do right by you and your community.     

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
As of right now, it’s a one man show at the Von Brinkley Brand. My son and grandson will join the journey in due time. Speaking it into existence.

Courtesy of Macala Lacy

The Well Healing
Owner: Macala Lacy
www.thewellhealing.com
567-908-0498
Services: Therapy, yoga, education, wellness consulting, tarot.

What inspired you to start your business?
I identify as a Black woman and am also a part of the LGBTQ family. Growing up I experienced a lot of discrimination and violence, honestly, because of my identities. This impacted my mental health a lot. Eventually seeking services for mental health therapy, they just weren’t available. The services I needed were not available for me or the community that I grew up in. At the same time, I had always been a safe space for loved ones and strangers around me.

Later on, I decided to become the resource that I needed, which was to provide a safe space for folks with marginalized identities. So that’s what inspired me to start my business. I started as a yoga teacher and later learned more about mental health therapy, so I integrate these practices. I am a yoga psychotherapist serving marginalized communities, providing mental health counseling, holistic wellness education, yoga classes, and also consulting with other small businesses who are looking to create intentional and safe spaces for LGBTQ and Black, Indigenous, People of Color, BIPOC folks.

What is something you would like the community to know about you and your business?
The Well is really unique because of our diverse sources of wisdom. So it is both Western and Eastern, modern and ancient. We collaborate with a lot of practitioners. When it comes to Western and Modern practices, your traditional mental health therapists, as well as different organizers, and activists. And we celebrate and incorporate a lot of traditional healing and ancient medicine as well. So we have also worked and have tarot readers who are a part of our team, or astrologists who also provide wellness information. So something I would want folks to know is this a place to both come and “drink and be well from the well,” and it is also an incredible place to pour back into the well. You can give in that we incorporate lots of different perspectives so long as it’s serving the community’s wellness. And I want folks to know there is room for them here.

What are your plans and goals for the future of your business?
Eventually, I would like to be back in a brick-and-mortar space. I envision a beautiful community space. Expanding on the foundations that we had and are even continuing to happen virtually, which is providing community events and being a community hub where you can find different local virtual support groups or mental health information, LGBTQ related info, all kinds of good stuff. The goal is to bring this back into a psychical space, continue to increase access to care for marginalized folks and also to shift the ways that we think about and practice care for ourselves and for others.

What is the best way the community can support your business?
The three options are to join our newsletter, follow us on Instagram or Facebook, and share via word of mouth. If folks have the capacity, donations are always welcome, whether that’s financial donations or offering resources like I said to collaborate with a lot of practitioners in the community. All that information can be found on our website. So check us out, tell a friend of a friend, and pour back into the well in the ways that feel most authentic.

If you have employees, how many people do you employ?
I do not have employees at this time. Occasionally we will collaborate, but there is no one working directly under me right now.