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Black-owned small businesses get jumpstart at Baltimore's Harborplace through tenancy program

Black-owned small businesses get boost with opening at Harborplace
Black-owned small businesses get boost with opening at Harborplace 03:17

BALTIMORE -- Several Black-owned small businesses are now open inside of Baltimore's Harborplace pavilions. 

The storefronts held their grand opening on Juneteenth. 

Each storefront reimagines what the historic venue is and will be for the Charm City. 

A dream come true

Baltimore native Amanda Hynson says having a storefront in the heart of the Inner Harbor is more that she could've ever imagined. 

"My parents lived in Federal Hill," said Hynson, the owner of Milton's Daughters LLC. "My family grew up going to Cross Street Market." 

Milton's Daughters is one of six Black-owned businesses selected to open storefronts thanks to the Downtown BOOST Harborplace Local Tenancy Program.

"These types of spaces, and it's a commercial space is waterfront— most small businesses. We couldn't afford to be here and so this is a great opportunity," said Monesha Phillips, the owner of Pandora's Box.

"I can't believe it. Also, it's good to see people who look like me on the mainstream," Hynson said.

"We are a part of their reimagining things of what it's going to feel like to be here at the harbor, a local small business, locally owned, born and raised," Phillips said.

Developers hope to rebuild the outdated Harborplace pavilions.

All seven business owners join MCB Real Estate, Downtown Partnership, on a two-year license agreement to do business inside of the pavilions. 

Motion Athletics, an athleticwear brand with a fashion and streetwear focus, is owned and operated by Idris Coleman. 

Amancino Mansa Musa, who works as a business strategist alongside Coleman, views this opportunity as a way to connect with the community through their brand and in-store giveaways. 

"This is a historic place is great energy— it is a great opportunity for us to position ourselves here in the harbor and make history," Mansa Musa said. "It honestly feels like destiny." 

A reimagined Harborplace

The new owner of the development, MCB Real Estate, wants to tear down the two concrete pavilions and replace them with a new outdoor space, shops, offices, residential towers and more.

It's a proposal with a $1 billion price tag with costs stemming from public and private funds.

The plan cleared the Baltimore City's Planning Commission and City Council, and it will now appear on ballots in November for voters to help make the next move in its development.

But until then, it is business as usual for the storefronts as they continue to grow and gain new clientele.

Small businesses building Baltimore's future 

A spot in the new redevelopment space is not guaranteed but until the next steps are clear, the shops are proud to make this place feel like home. 

"But this doesn't feel like work," Musa told WJZ. "It really feels like we are being able to connect with the with people you know what I mean? And being able to get to know them face to face and people that are coming to visit." 

"Now actually being here is very, very nice," Hynson said. 

Here's a full list of all seven local businesses now open at Harborplace:

Pratt Street Pavilion – 

  • MoreLife Organic Juice, a family-run juice company from Toluwaloju Runsewe and Nicole Scott, focused on making organic juices, herbal teas, and raw vegan snacks 
  • Motion Athletics, an athleticwear brand with a fashion and streetwear focus owned and operated by Idris Coleman.

Light Street Pavilion (Baltimore Boutique) – 

  • Cuples Tea, a premium loose-leaf tea company curating an exquisite collection of premium loose-leaf teas, along with an array of thoughtfully selected tea accessories; this is their second location for the business owned and operated by husband and wife duo, Eric and Lynnette Dodson
  • Milton's Daughters, a shop providing authentic waist beads and cultural accessories as well as crystals, herbs and spiritual tools, owned and operated by Amanda Hynson
  • Pandora's Box, by Monesha Philips, a unique selection of the latest trends, jewelry, gifts, home decor, and personal accessories 
  • Storybook Maze, a literacy community outreach movement by Araba Maze, which seeks to eliminate book deserts by installing free public book vending machines 
  • Yele Stitches, an African Luxury brand creating custom and handmade dresses, tops, bridal gowns, and more owned and operated by designer Abisola Omoyele "Yelé" Oladeinde

Many of the businesses are open Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

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