FLORENCE, S.C. — Magnolia Mall is launching “Support Black-Owned Business 365” to make it easier for mall guests to support businesses and brands owned by African-Americans.
Magnolia Mall has created a home on its website highlighting Black-owned retailers, restaurants and pop-up shops. According to an announcement by Magnolia Mall, the website also lists fashion brands, cosmetics, fragrance lines, entertainment, athletic and other products for sale in the mall.
“This is part of an ongoing effort by the mall’s parent company, PREIT (NYSE:PEI) to spotlight Black-owned entrepreneurs and brands within its portfolio of top-tier and region-leading properties in eight states,” the announcement says. “During the coming year, at least two-thirds of PREIT properties also plan to host community-wide Black-Owned Business Showcases, providing entrepreneurs with a venue to showcase their goods and services.”
Black-owned businesses operating in Magnolia Mall contacted by the Morning News seem spilt on whether they think times are tougher for them than for other business owners during COVID but agree that any help by the mall is appreciated.
“Everyone is suffering,” said one business owner.
Foxy Ladies Boutique is relatively new to the mall, opening in September 2020. It is located beside Journeys and features the latest fashion trends for women.
Owner Lakelia Kennedy said business is doing OK but any help is appreciated.
“I feel like it is more difficult for minority businesses,” she said. “I definitely welcome the mall’s help.”
Foxy Ladies also has a shop in Sumter. Kennedy said that store is not doing as well as the Florence location. She said that location is really struggling.
Kennedy said Magnolia Mall seems to have fewer restrictions during this time and the mall employees are very helpful.
“I do think we would do a whole lot better if not for the COVID situation,” Kennedy said.
“COVID is putting a damper on businesses, especially the small ones.”
Kennedy said she thinks more advertising by the mall would help. The shop owner said she wants people to know the measures small businesses are taking to keep their establishments clean and to protect their staff and their customers. Kennedy said she wears and requires customers to wear masks. Social distancing and temperature checks are also a part of the routine.
“We are doing what we can to keep people safe,” she said.
Beatrice Broughton- Molé is the owner of Flori Roberts by Mrs. Bea. Broughton-Mole’s business is in a kiosk in front of American Eagle. Her products are created for skin of color, including crème to powder foundation, cosmetics and skin-care items especially created for black skin or deeper skin tones. The owner said she does eyebrow enhancement and eyelash extensions.
“I service my clients by selling skin care, doing makeovers, but I’m definitely known for ‘slaying the eyebrows.’
“My business is quickly approaching its eighth-year anniversary,” she said. “The past year has been extremely stressful and challenging due to the pandemic. As a ... minority business owner, I had to strategize and walk by faith during this pandemic because the shutdown affected my business 100 percent, and the impact hit during my busiest season. Currently my team and I are trying to regroup and put our best foot forward and service our clients.”
Broughton-Mole has been in business for eight years. She said COVID has affected all businesses but especially smaller businesses and most specifically Black-owned businesses. She said COVID hit during her busiest time of year from January to June — Valentines, Easter, Mother’s Day, prom and wedding season.
Broughton-Mole said she moved here from Summerville for this business and is doing everything she can to make it successful.
She said being close to the interstate highways makes business during COVID a little more challenging. She said people come off the interstates from all over.
“We keep our area especially clean,” Broughton-Mole said. “We wear face coverings, sanitize and have limited seating.
“I had four staff members quit due to COVID,” Broughton-Mole said. “It has been a big challenge.”
“We do everything we can to stay afloat,” she said. “I am honored to be a part of the team at Magnolia Mall. I see it as an honor and a privilege.”
Broughton-Mole said help with advertising and marketing would be a big plus. She said because she doesn’t have a store front her business isn’t listed on the directory. She needs help with exposure.
“I think the mall staff is awesome,” Broughton-Mole said. “They take care of us, but more marketing would help. That is the key.”
Sylvia Williamson, owner of Sweeter Than U, has had a business at Magnolia Mall for two years in April. She said her kiosk is in front of Foot Locker, where she sells cupcakes, brownies, cake squares and other sweets.
“Business has been very slow,” she said.
She said foot traffic in the mall has dropped off since COVID. She closed her business from March 17 to June 4 due to COVID over concern about people picking up the food.
“I think all businesses are having difficulty, not just Black-owned businesses,” Williamson said.
She said more collective advertising by the mall would be helpful. Williamson said she is appreciative that the mall is trying to help its tenants during this difficult time.
“I just want to tell people to come by and support all the businesses. Come see what we have to offer,” Williamson said.
PREIT properties companywide are also planning events and activities throughout the year, including art exhibits, documentary screenings and food festivals as a way to highlight the importance of Black-owned business and brands beyond Black History Month, the announcement said.
“We feel this was a concrete step we could take to encourage our guests to support Black-owned businesses throughout the year,” said Shanna C. Wilson, marketing coordinator. “Our new initiative will be updated regularly as we continue to add new businesses and products.
“The past year has been challenging for many retailers, but Black-owned businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Consumers can now make even more informed buying decisions that will directly support Black entrepreneurs in our community.”
Additional Black-owned businesses listed on “Support Black-Owned Business 365” at Magnolia Mall’s website are I Love Hair Eyelashes, in the food Court; Paradise Studios, in front of Hibbett Sports, Primetime Barbershop, beside Belk; and Shoe Gods, in front of Jimmy Jazz.