KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) — While some shops are struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, others are thriving. After the death of George Floyd sparked a racial justice movement, there’s been a greater spotlight on Black owned businesses.
One local entrepreneur saw an opportunity to bring something new to the city of fountains.
“There are Black businesses out here, but we are so spread out and tucked [away],” said Brain Roberts. “A lot of people may not know they exist.”
Roberts is the founder and owner of the Black Pantry. He started the business 5 months ago with the goal to bring his curated, Black-owned products into a brick and mortar store by the end of 2021. 3 months into the year he’s sharing a space with Made in Kansas City.
“I had no idea where I was going,” Roberts said about his business during its infancy. “I just knew there was a gap and I wanted to fill it.”
Shoppers stopped by the store’s soft opening with curiosity and left with bags full of Black products.
“I work right down the street and I was like, ‘we’re going during my lunch break,’” said Olivia Derusse. “What a beautiful thing to have up. I’m really excited to come back.”
Daniel Smith is the owner of Porter House KC, a small business resource with mentorship programs. Roberts credits some of his success to the help he got from Smith.
“This is exciting. This is exciting,” said Smith walking through the store. “It just lends to other young people or just individuals who have dreams and aspirations, it lends to those folks being able to achieve those.”
Roberts said he designed the store to be approachable to people from all walks of life.
“It’s Black culture from different points of view. You have the artists, you have the food makers, you have the creatives,” Roberts said. “You have all these different aspects of Black Culture in one space where it’s inviting and not overwhelmingly intimidating.”
Derusse said she noticed the sign out front a few weeks ago and has been waiting to peek inside. She said her money means more at The Black Pantry.
“Shopping Black is a whole different thing. You’re elevating people. You’re circulating Black dollars. You’re promoting Black creatives and ideas,” she said. “It doesn’t even feel real that there’s a space like that right here in our city.”
The Black Pantry is located at 325 East 31st Street in Midtown, Kansas City. Roberts plans to continue arranging pop-ups at other local businesses.