Rick Wallace rings up a string of customers, who buy everything from chips to cookies to yogurt, on a bustling Wednesday at Broadway Market.
He’s owned the corner store at Fourth and Broadway for about two-and-a-half years. He also owns Savory Restaurant, a breakfast and lunch eatery that opened at the beginning of the year. Wallace’s parents were entrepreneurs in New York, and he said it felt natural for him to eventually own his own business as well.
His biggest struggles right now are finding quality employees and funding for other projects he’d like to pursue.
“I feel like Louisville has great opportunities here,” he said. “There’s other stuff I’d love to do if I can get certain resources to move on to the next project.”
He could find the help he’s looking for at the Louisville’s Diverse Business Fair at Fourth Street Live next month. The event is meant to connect businesses — led by people of color and women — to other businesses and resources in the Louisville region.
District 4 Metro Councilman David Tandy, whose district includes Fourth Street Live, said it’s a good way for minority-owned businesses to expand their networks.
“I think the biggest obstacle for minority-owned or women-owned businesses is simply access to contacts, access to decision-makers,” he said.
Tandy hopes the fair could lead the way to expanding the region’s business network to include more ventures owned by women and people of color.
The Elephant in the Room
Despite hosting this event aimed to bridge connections across the city, Fourth Street Live has an history of alleged racism, particularly against black patrons. The business and entertainment strip, owned by Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, has been accused of discrimination by employees and of racially profiling black patrons. Many feel the company enforces a dress code — which includes a ban on sagging jeans — that targets young black men.
In recent years, there have been a string of recent instances of African-American men being kicked out of or arrested at Fourth Street Live establishments.
JCTC instructor Shelton McElroy filed a lawsuit against the establishment after being kicked out of Sully’s Restaurant and Saloon in 2014. Former University of Louisville basketball player Jason Osborne was arrested there for alleged criminal trespassing in 2013. And Andre Mulligan filed a lawsuit after claiming Maker’s Mark Bourbon Lounge refused to host a party upon finding out that all the attendees would be black.
Tandy said holding the fair at Fourth Street Live again this year is a chance for Cordish to prove its readiness to be apart of the entire community.
“We’ve continuously had a dialogue and a need for saying, ‘I’d rather see a sermon than hear a sermon any day,’” he said. “So the way that businesses show that they’re committed to diversity inclusion is where they spend their dollars and how they engage with the public.”
Holding a business fair targeted at diverse audiences at a location where incidents of alleged discrimination occurred is not lost on Fourth Street Live president Ed Hartless.
“We’re sensitive to the context,” said Hartless, who’s served as president since early 2016. “I don’t know if the business fair has much relevance to the allegations. We’re doing this strictly to work with the community on events.”
Fourth Street Live workers, including security, housekeeping and front office staff attend a diversity training at least once a year. Tenants and other third-party establishments are also encouraged to attend the free trainings, however they’re not mandatory.
Hartless has worked for Cordish in other locations in the past and said the company has always been a leader in promoting inclusiveness.
“But I think in the past maybe we weren’t as selective of the operators that came in,” he said. “We want to make sure that we have operators that understand priorities and making sure that we’re inclusive.”
The 2nd Annual Louisville Metro Diverse Business Fair will take place Tuesday, Oct. 25 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Tavern at Fourth Street Live.