The Village Market continues to show how support is a verb!
The last time we spoke to Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon, who founded The Village Market ATL in 2016, she was providing Atlanta Black-owned businesses with a direct pipeline to consumers, resources, and community partners through quarterly marketplaces. The location has since changed, but the mission to support Black entrepreneurs and boost the Black economy remains the same.
Like for many businesses, Hallmon had to pivot her operational plans when the pandemic hit, shutting down in-person experiences altogether. What could have been viewed as a setback, turned into an opportunity for Hallmon to open The Village Retail in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market, inviting a lot of the businesses that were a part of the Village Market ATL to make the transition into retail with her. Ponce City Market is a historic Sears building that was turned into a market complete with shops, a food hall and office and living spaces.
“Currently we have 41 businesses in The Village Retail, and over 85% of them, this is there first experience being in a retail store,” Hallmon shared with Because of Them We Can. “Many of them had aspirations of being at a place like Ponce City Market, but I took a more of a cooperative approach just like The Village Market quarterly events – that if we’re going to do this, we’ll do it together.”
From the growth and scale of the involved businesses to the positive reception from the community to partnering with Target to get six Village Retail businesses into the retail giant’s pro-bono program and creating a direct connection with a major manufacturer, there’s only one word that can sum up the journey thus far for Hallmon: incredible. Now something else incredible has happened.
The Village Market has recently partnered with the Atlanta BeltLine to create the BeltLine Marketplace, which according to a press release, will “provide new, affordable commercial opportunities for up to six local, Black-owned businesses with storefronts directly on the multi-use trail as part of Atlanta BeltLine’s first small business incubator.”
Hallmon has been working with the Atlanta BeltLine for a few years now, providing thought leadership on equity and engaging in their pop-up opportunities as a co-curator. It was six or seven months ago that they approached her about leading a pilot program that would create commercial opportunities for Black businesses, later becoming known as the BeltLine Marketplace. The project is supported by a $750,000 grant from the Kendeda Fund.
“This collaboration ensures economic mobility, accessibility, and a progressive way forward as the BeltLine begins to nurture relationships with local, independently owned, Black-owned businesses that have been displaced due to the surge in commercial rents. It’s imperative that local, Black-owned businesses can stay in the communities where they have always been – sharing in economic prosperity,” Hallmon expressed in a press release.
In same the press release, President and CEO of Atlanta BeltLine Clyde Higgs, added: “With new funding, ABI is developing and advancing commercial affordability strategies aimed at stabilizing, preserving, and creating affordable spaces so that Black-owned, legacy, small, and local business can grow and flourish around the 22-mile loop. Providing access to the well-traveled BeltLine corridor is one avenue to connect businesses with new economic opportunities.”
Black entrepreneurs are not only going to benefit, but Hallmon is confident that The Village Market “will be the national model of what every major city that has a main street that has forced Black people out, what they can do to make sure that Black people can open for business and thrive.”
With this new partnership with the Atlanta BeltLine (who has 2 million annual customers), Hallmon hopes that Black businesses will see a great increase in capital, the City of Atlanta will not only invest in Black businesses but also invest in real estate for Black businesses, and The Village Market will become a national model of placemaking.
“During a pandemic, we’ve seen over one million in sales directly to Black businesses… we can take this concept and add in the thought leadership from city to city or be able to open up concepts in other cities,” Hallmon shared.
Speaking of other cities, Hallmon is taking her 12-week incubator, ELEVATE, to 100 entrepreneurs in Mississippi, where she’s originally from. Launched in the heart of the pandemic, the incubator offers comprehensive technical support to sole proprietors, providing them with back-office services to help them scale their businesses. ELEVATE just recently graduated its 100th business from the program.
“Beyond all the incredible things, I’m so excited to be able to take my work to Mississippi – because so many of these entrepreneurs are going to start in little rural towns just like I did,” Hallmon explained. “You don’t get to see a lot of representation… in rural areas it’s rare to see a Black business owner reach a level of financial and economic success… so I’m so excited to take the work back home and continue to expand the work in Atlanta.”
For Hallmon, the first and foremost goal has always been for Black businesses to make money. As stated in a press release,”The Village Market has made a 6.3 million dollar impact in the city of Atlanta through seasonal marketplaces, retail and campaigns.”
The ribbon cutting for the new BeltLine Marketplace, set to happen in June, is another manifestation of that goal.