Arts and Culture Commentary

The MELANnaire Marketplace opened this weekend to give Black-owned businesses a space to showcase their products.

The marketplace was first founded last year by Nachand Trabue. To kick off their “Galleria Remix Holiday Shopp Extravaganza,” the marketplace opened up for the busy shopping weekend following Thanksgiving, giving businesses that usually might have a hard time getting attention amid the Black Friday and Small Business Saturday sales a dedicated space. 

Meet some of the vendors below:

Godiva Goddess

Sheila Fox owns Godiva Goddess, where she creates mixed-media art that showcases Black people.

A series of painting showcasing Black people.Breya Jones | wfpl.org

Mix-media art by Sheila Fox owner of Godiva Goddess.

This was Fox’s third time selling at a MELANnarie Marketplace, and she said this marketplace has been able to not only help her expand her business, but also helped to offset the cost of her wedding.

The support that she and other vendors give each other at this space has been also important.

“We get to generate our dollars within each other. Every event I do, I find myself not only am I here to make money as well, but I also support the other vendor here,” Fox said. “Just to have that money rotating in our community is everything.”

Fox hopes that by continuing to attend market events and sell her work, she’ll be able to transition to that being her full-time job.

Gimme Some Suga

Gimme Some Suga, run by Therron and Kendra Cunningham, puts a spin on the cotton candy people know from childhood.

Kendra Cunningham stand next to table stacked with packaged cotton candy.Breya Jones | wfpl.org

Kendra Cunningham hand-spun a variety of cotton candy flavors for her company Gimme Some Sugar.

The inspiration was Kendra’s own love for cotton candy, and she offers over 40 flavors, including mango, cake batter and s’more, which features graham crackers and chocolate sprinkled on top.

For the couple, the MELANnaire Marketplace has given them and others a space to showcase the goods while connecting with others and watching them grow.

“It’s important for us to be here because we’re kinda just connecting with the energy of so many people trying to do the same thing that we are,” said Therron. “We’re watching small businesses, literally, getting ready to be big.”

Leo’s Juice Co.

At Leo’s Juice Co., a variety of fresh-made, cold-pressed juices are available.

For their first appearance at the MELANnaire Marketplace, they even offered a new flavor called the Melanin Mix, made with cranberry, pineapple, lemon and apple juice.

“We may be quote, unquote a small business, but we can make a big impact. We just have to get the exposure and get our product out there,” said Anjelica Lusco, one of the people behind the company.

A tin bowl with ice and pressed-juice in various flavors and shades.Breya Jones | wfpl.org

Leo’s Juice Co. offers several pressed-juice flavors, including a special Melanin Mix for the marketplace.

She said that getting out to markets, especially during the holding season, is important to ensure the business can reach as many people as possible.

“Every bottle makes a difference,” Lusco said.

Kids for Culture

Among the clothes, food and personal care products for sale sat a table with books, games and puzzles.

Kids for Culture, run by sisters Lamia Haley and Kristen O’Meally, seeks to offer products that allow children from diverse cultural backgrounds to see themselves in the item they use to learn and play.

“We wanted to create a brand that included everyone,” said O’Meally.

The products include a book of ABC affirmations, emotion cards to help children learn to express themselves in a healthy way and a puzzle that allows children to place themselves in various STEM fields. 

Sisters Lamia Haley and Kristen O’Meally stand behind table cover with books, games and toy for children.Breya Jones | wfpl.org

Sisters Lamia Haley and Kristen O’Meally’s created Kids for Culture to allow educational materials to showcase Black and Brown children.

Markets have helped the sisters get their products and mission out to the public and they have responded well to the gap they’re trying to fill.

“A lot of people tell us that, ‘Hey, we didn’t have this growing up,’” said O’Meally. “And they’re letting us know that ‘Hey, this is really neat.’”

The MELANnaire Marketplace will be open at Fourth Street Live, 416 West Liberty St.,  from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on weekends only until the week before Christmas, when it will open every day.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Great Meadows Foundation.

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for WFPL.