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Local black creators showcase products at Cherokee Street Black Friday event

La'Crassia Wilderness talks with participants at her November workshop at Mac's Local Buys. November 2019
Ashley Lisenby | St. Louis Public Radio
La'Crassia Wilderness, in pink, talks with participants at her November workshop at Mac's Local Buys.

Would people be put off? St. Louis entrepreneur Sarita Moody wondered this when she and co-creator Anni Jones of Mesa Home developed their new idea. Could they pull off a local Black Friday event if they only showcased black creators?

“One day, [Anni Jones] said, 'I’d love to do a pop-up shop in my store with you and other artists,'” Moody said.

Moody, the maker behind Feeling Moody knitwear, quickly discovered that black-owned Black Friday could be done quite successfully.

“It was bigger than we expected,” Moody said of all the support they received that first year.

Now in its third year, the pop-up market highlights small businesses and brings foot traffic to Cherokee Street, an area of the city seen locally as a south St. Louis hub for local artists, musicians and entrepreneurs.

The makers involved in the market all bring a “unique point of view,” Moody said.

As for highlighting that the market would specifically showcase the works of local black makers?

“(I thought) listen, people are going to be offended. What if people are put off? But no one has pushed back,” Moody said. "I haven’t received any negative feedback. All kinds of people support this. That’s impressive to me.”

Business and community

Twenty black creators will sell their goods at The Luminary on Cherokee Street on Saturday One of those creators is natural skincare line owner La’Crassia Wilderness. She will sell her natural skincare products, Butterlove by LC, for the first time at the black-owned Black Friday market this year.

“Everything is so big business-based, like the Walmarts, the Targets, the Sam’s Club or wherever else people go to shop,” Wilderness said. “I think it’s important that us, as black-owned businesses, have a place to sell our products, too, because we’re the ones who are trying to build community.”

Wilderness said she started her business four years ago because of of her struggles with dry skin and her desire to learn how to care for her skin and hair with natural remedies.

“It kind of was a process of me just trying to heal myself and that turned into a business that is just amazing and growing everyday,” she said.

Listen:"St. Louis on the Air" host Don Marsh talks to St. Louis Public Radio's Holly Edgell and Ashley Lisenby about how individual makers and various communities and cultures are broadening their holiday-shopping horizons in the St. Louis area.

Lifting each other up

Wildnerness sells her products at local shops around St. Louis and pop-up markets for holiday and charity events. She held her first workshop at Mac’s Local Buys in Dogtown in mid-November.

“Today, we’re going to do a detox bath salt workshop,” Wilderness said, before teaching her class. “I’m going to teach everyone how to make the bath salts and use certain herbs to promote detoxification in the body.”

Large glass jars filled with loose tea leaves lined a farm-style wooden table where workshop attendees sat drinking wine and snacking on small bites by Mac’s Local Eats. Neo-soul music echoed from speakers in the corner of the room and soft lighting settled on the eager faces of women who had fallen in love with Wilderness’ natural products from their first whiff.

“I have the lavender body butter and I use it every day,” said Jade Umberger, who attended the workshop. She found the moisturizer at a pop-up event at the Wild Carrot event space in the Shaw neighborhood. “It smelled so nice. We found out she was doing this workshop … as soon as she said it, we wanted to sign up.”

Most of the women who sat at the table, with the exception of Wilderness’ family members and close friends, were white. The support from a broad and diverse customer base is welcome.

“You’d be surprised to see the people who support this event and put dollars in local business,” Moody said. “[It’s about] highlighting each other and lifting each other up.”

Ashley Lisenby is part of the public-radio collaborative Sharing America, covering the intersection of race, identity and culture. This new initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, includes reporters in Hartford, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Portland, Oregon. Follow Ashley on Twitter @aadlisenby.

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Ashley Lisenby is the news director of St. Louis Public Radio.