DENVER — The third annual Denver Boutique Week runs through Sunday, Aug. 8, and encourages people to support local Black-owned businesses in Denver.
One of the event organizers is Cassandra Allen-Brown, owner of the Yarn Shoppe Denver. Brown said the event gives people an opportunity to learn about businesses where they don't usually shop.
"It is an excellent influence throughout the minority community, particularly the African American community," said Allen-Brown. "It lets everyone see you know what, if she can do it, I can do it too."
A handful of Black business owners are participating in Boutique Week this year. People are invited to shop from this curated list of local stores, both in person and online.
Allen-Brown's business is just one on the list.
In a busy downtown Denver with plenty of options to shop and dine, the Yarn Shoppe Denver is a little harder to find. The small shop is located on the fourth floor of a building on California Street. "It’s like a hidden little gem," said Allen-Brown. "Even though it’s downtown in the central business district, people are like what? A yarn shop?"
Most of Allen-Brown's business comes from foot traffic outside and tourists. During the pandemic, downtown was not as busy as it is today, and that ultimately resulted in a decrease in sales at the Yarn Shoppe. Still, Allen-Brown said she always remained optimistic.
"I’m a faith walker. I knew I just needed to hang in there, it’ll be a matter of time, it’ll come back, and it’s coming," she said.
The pandemic's effects on small minority-owned businesses happened quickly. A report from the National Bureau of Economic Research found Black business owners declined more than 40% in 2020 between February and April.
In Allen-Brown's case, the pandemic forced her to scale back her hours of operations, but now that business is picking up, she plans to return to her normal business hours.
"People are coming in going, 'oh we’re just so happy to see that you’re still here,'" she said, a sentiment that speaks volumes regarding how the pandemic affected other small businesses. "I know for me personally, because I’m not H&M for instance on 16th Street Mall, they have a large online presence, but for me, it’s just me, so if you’re a Black-owned business and it’s just you and a business for your family."
Allen-Brown said online sales helped her business survive the pandemic, but doesn't expect to return to pre-pandemic sales until early 2022. In April 2021, Yelp released a report that revealed reviews for Black-owned businesses grew more than 600%. While recovering fully from the pandemic will take time, Allen-Brown remains hopeful about the path to recovery, mostly due to community support.
More than a dozen businesses will be participating in Denver Boutique Week with options to shop online and in person. The full list can be found here.
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