As part of our Black History Month celebration, DLBA is putting the spotlight on Black-owned Downtown businesses in the next two Downtown Scene Newsletters. These businesses run the gamut from those deeply rooted in cherished traditions to others driven by state-of-the-art techniques and technology. Black History Month, and beyond, is the perfect time to discover these businesses and the people behind their successes.



“I’m looking to provide the most serene facial services, and bring a calming, relaxing space to the East Village — a kind of one-stop shop for personal care,” said Miller, a licensed aesthetician whose shop has been open for 14 months. 

Miller also partners with the City to mentor young women, employ them, and teach them how to operate their own business. “I want them to be able to provide the most serene facial experience too,” she said. 

While growing up in Long Beach, Miller became fascinated with the idea of personal care as a career while watching her mother, who was in the beauty industry. “I saw how it empowered women,” she explained. “I really loved that, and once I started taking care of my own skin, people started asking me for skin care advice, which inspired me to start my own business.” 

Next up, Miller is looking for body waxer and nail technicians to fill spaces that are for rent within her shop. “We’re offering our rental spaces at very competitive rates,” she said.

Miller wants people to know that hers is one of the only shops in Long Beach that offers the hydrofacial, a new technique popular in Hollywood but just starting to find its way into the mainstream beauty industry. “Come to Amber M Aesthetics for your facial, waxing, and nail services,” said Miller. “We’ll get you feeling healthy, glowing, beautiful, and radiant.” 



Imagine being trapped in a haunted house, pirate ship, insane asylum or wizard’s den and having to work with your family, friends, or co-workers to find a way out! This is the challenge of Escape Rooms, which are rapidly growing in popularity worldwide. David Dent, owner of the new PaniQ Escape Room franchise on Pine Avenue, can attest to this. 

“We’ve been open for about 90 days, and we’re staying very busy with a steady stream of business,” said Dent, a licensed architect for the State of California. He is also a licensed contractor, and he holds a Master’s Degree in Project Managing for Construction. 

Asked to describe the appeal of Escape Rooms, Dent explained: “You’re solving puzzles and riddles so it’s a very brain-stimulating activity. It’s like a live video game. You’re interacting with things and being immersed in an environment filled with espionage or thrills or even scares.”

Dent faced an interesting challenge while working out the financing for his new business: Banks didn’t know yet what an Escape Room was! It took extra effort to show them that Escape Rooms are legitimate businesses that can bring in steady revenues.

“We have a ton of ideas for keeping our business constantly appealing and interesting,” said Dent. “We’ve applied for a liquor license, we’re hoping to sponsor local youth sports leagues, and after we get thoroughly established we’re going to optimize 4000 more square feet of building space. We invite all of you to come to our PaniQ Escape Rooms and immerse yourselves in a new world of fun and excitement.”     



Saundra Christmas, owner of Mabel’s Gourmet Pralines on Pine Avenue, has been open for almost 20 years selling just two items: banana puddin’ and pralines! 

Christmas learned her banana puddin’ and praline recipes from her mother Mabel while growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She spoke of her business journey while seated in Mabel’s rocking chair, which occupies a corner of the shop. “I started my career plans when I enrolled in Spencer Business College in Baton Rouge,” she said. “When I moved out here, I discovered that there were no pralines in Southern California!” 

A light went on for Christmas after she made a batch of pralines for a fundraiser at her daughter’s school, and started getting calls for the delectable, pecan-infused dessert in the weeks following the event. After selling her Louisiana treats at several local farmers markets, Christmas opened her Pine Avenue shop in 2006. “I built up my clientele the old-fashioned way — by word of mouth,” she said. 

Christmas suffered a huge setback during the civil unrest of 2020. “I had to close down because we were hit hard by vandals,” she explained. “That was a lot, but I believe in the power of prayer, and that’s what really kept us going.” 

Nowadays, Christmas is working with the Long Beach Youth Opportunity Program, which gives young people the opportunity to interact with customers, handle money, and get used to the discipline of work. “Some of them even get to learn my recipes,” Christmas said with a smile. “I do stand on this: Mine are the best pralines you’ll ever taste!”