Shoppers looking for local stores and services have a new resource.
The Lorain County Minority Business Directory was published online with the first list of companies owned by African Americans, those of Hispanic or Latino heritage, women, veterans, LGBTQ and allies and those catering to agricultural or rural goods and services.
The online directory is published through loraincounty.com in conjunction with the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Development Center at Lorain County Community College.
Chamber President Tony Gallo said the directory is a good start, but not yet comprehensive for all of the county’s businesses with owners who may belong to underrepresented groups.
More participants can add their information by logging on to loraincounty.com.
In the directory
One of the early participants is Studio 828, a multicultural, multigenerational hair salon at 1100 N. Abbe Road in Elyria.
It is a minority- and woman-owned business created by Sha’Quanna Young, who has been at the location 5 ½ years.
Studio 828 closed for eight weeks earlier this year due to business shutdowns required during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The salon reopened May 15, and now has three stylists, a nail technician and numerous precautions in place to guard customers from COVID-19.
The protocols include adhesive face masks that customers can wear so mask straps or ear loops don’t get in the way of styling hair.
“Our customers have been very great,” Young said. “We haven’t had any pushback on any of our protocols that we started.
“They’ve actually been very appreciative of the protocols that we have. Everybody’s been very respectful of the stylists and the nail tech.”
On Oct. 22, client Andrea Howell, of Sheffield Village, said she canceled an earlier appointment when she woke up that day with a tickle in her throat.
It was not COVID-19, but “I just didn’t want to take that chance,” Howell said.
Young said she did not remember exactly how she heard about creation of the Minority Business Directory this year, but it likely popped up in social media.
She sent in her information for the new list and plans on joining the Chamber of Commerce.
“I love anything that progresses minorities in the country,” Young said.
A native of California, Young thanked her customers for the salon’s success.
“I’m just proud to be a minority business owner in this area and doing well, for someone who is not a native,” Young said.
She moved to Elyria at age 18 with her family, and in years since, has built a loyal following of clients.
A mother of daughters Avani Cavin, 16, and Andrea Cheers, 5, Young said she wants to show them and young people they can find success at the local level.
“I’m just very proud to be in a position to show other minority children that with hard work, you can achieve so much,” Young said.
The area sometimes has a bad connotation that there’s nothing to do here, or youth have to get out of the area, she said.
“And you really don’t,” Young said. “You just have to be passionate about what you do.”
More to come
The directory has existed as an idea for two or three years, Gallo said.
This year, the novel coronavirus pandemic pushed businesses and their supporters to look for ways to remain open while staying safe due to COVID-19.
The pandemic also caused cancelation of a number of events, which in turn created time to develop ideas waiting in the wings.
The Small Business Development Center had federal CARES Act relief funding to deal with COVID-19, which helped pay for the directory, Gallo said.
Meanwhile, Lowe’s in Avon began seeking out minority-owned businesses to donate personal protective equipment needed to slow the spread of the disease.
Those organizations began a collaboration with El Centro de Servicios Sociales Inc., the Lorain County Urban League, Oberlin College and the Wellington branch of Lorain County Community College.
The Cleveland-based Plexus LGBT & Allied Chamber of Commerce joined in, with that chamber and the Lorain County Chamber becoming members of each other’s organizations, Gallo said.
The result is a small directory that Gallo expects to grow.
“We know that this is going to be ongoing,” he said. “We know that this is going to be forever updated as new businesses open.”
It’s just the start, Gallo said about the new list.
“I think we just scratched the surface of it, I really do,” he said.
In the summer, August has been recognized as National Black Business Month.
Black business owners account for about 10 percent of U.S. businesses and about 30 percent of all minority-owned businesses, Gallo reported in a Chamber update at the time.
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