During the national unrest last year, Jeannine A. Cook, owner of Harriett’s Bookshop in Fishtown, set about distributing free books in Philly, and in Minneapolis. There was Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero by Kate Clifford Larson, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley.
Doing so was all in keeping with the mission of Cook’s shop, which is named for Harriet Tubman and has become a hub for civic engagement through events and internship opportunities.
Harriet’s is just one of many awesome Black-owned businesses in Philadelphia that give back to the community as part of their mission. Still, while 44 percent of the population in Philly is Black, only 2.5 percent of businesses with more than one employee are Black-owned. And many of those businesses have been harder hit during the pandemic than those owned by white entrepreneurs: As The Philadelphia Tribune reported on February 9, “Black businesses have been more likely to be shuttered and less likely to receive the federal aid they requested compared to other groups.”
Despite how many more hurdles Black entrepreneurs have to overcome—like less access to funding than their white counterparts—so many of the Black-owned businesses in Philly give back to our city, as part of doing business.
Below, our list of Black-owned businesses includes just some of our favorite Black-owned, do-good shops, services, and restaurants. We’d love to know which ones you love—please message us at [email protected] with your recs.
What they sell: Comics, books, and the collectibles associated with both.
Do-good jawn: Ariell Johnson was the first Black woman in America to open a comic book store when she came on the scene in Kensington in 2015. Dubbing her spot “a celebration of geek culture,” she sees her space as “a safe haven for all of geekdom.” And she serves coffee from a local Philly roaster that specializes in small-batch, organic,100 percent Arabica coffee, to boot.
What they sell: Beautifully crafted dolls with African-American complexions.
Do-good jawn: Representation matters: in the workplace, in Hollywood, and definitely in the toy aisle, which for too long lacked dolls with diverse hair, skin, and eye features. Mark Ruffin has set about changing that, with the Philly-based Black Dolls Matter, a line of Black dolls, as well as hoodies, and tote bags. Each doll is $95 at Black Dolls Matter, here.
What they sell: Precious clothing and accessories—cozy swaddles, funky bibs, adorable little leggings—for wee ones, many with hip Philly-themed prints.
Do-good jawn: Founder and designer Tina Dixon Spence (pictured above) hand-makes many of the items right in the West Mount Airy shop’s studio, using organic cotton and natural dyes—and any third-party makers whose wares she sells are held to an equally high standard of small-batch, sustainable production.
What they sell: Clothing and accessories made from recycled, repurposed, and scrap fabric.
Do-good jawn: At her West Philly shop, owner Kimberly McGlonn hires formerly incarcerated people, donates a portion of proceeds to various nonprofit organizations, and famously recycles and repurposes materials in the spirit of sustainability.
What they sell: Books, with an emphasis on Black history and authors.
Do-good jawn: The late Dawud Hakim founded his eponymous shop in West Philly in the 1950s, and for more than 70 years it’s been a community gathering spot and rich source of materials for children and adults. Plus, the store ships to prisons.
What they sell: Books, books, and more books, with a focus on Black and female writers.
Do-good jawn: Owner Jeannine A. Cook, herself a writer, named her shop for Ms. Tubman, and she operates in that same spirit of civil rights. And this month, in partnership with Vans, her team launched a limited-edition sneaker, with net proceeds from each sale going to support Harriett’s internship program, The Tubman Institute.
What they sell: Screen-printed goods with meaningful messages: There are “no justice, no peace” sweatshirts, “silence will not save you” tees, feminist authors tank tops, onesies emblazoned with the names “Tubman” and “Garvey” and the fitting message “The revolution will not be pacified.”
Do-good jawn: Founded in 2010 by Ruth Perez and Maryam Pugh, Philadelphia Printworks calls itself “a social justice heritage brand and screen printing workshop.”
What they sell: Jewelry, beauty products, clothing, home goods, stationery, and more, from Biggie Smalls swaddles for your little one to gorgeous gold hoops for your ears.
Do-good jawn: The Sable Collective is dedicated to sourcing gorgeous goods from BIPOC and women artisans and entrepreneurs.
What they sell: Their entirely handmade inventory includes locally-made honey, tea, clothing, art, and more.
Do-good jawn: Owners Dorothea Gamble and Dagmar Mitchell are continually rallying behind the community; most recently, for example, they donated 50 percent of their proceeds from the sale of local ceramicist Dominique Ellis’s wares to The Colored Girls Museum.
What they sell: Books, coffee, and dope merch, from hoodies with the image of Kobe Bryant and his pile of books, to Colin Kaepernick pins to water bottles that tell it like it is, emblazoned as they are with this three-word call to action: Support Black Shit.
Do-good jawn: The Germantown shop has become a de facto community gathering spot, and a beloved insta-institution: When vandals repeatedly broke the store’s windows over the last year, the community rallied to help fix them.
What they sell: Jams, candles, books, bathmats—basically every cool gift you’d be proud to give someone else—from your future mother-in-law to your hipster brother.
Do-good jawn: Shannon Maldonado (pictured above) founded her Queen Village boutique to showcase local creators.
What they do: Founders David and Aaron Cabella launched their company to deliver food exclusively for Black-owned restaurants.
Do-good jawn: They’re keeping Black-owned restaurants afloat during these precarious times, and providing an alternative to delivery companies that eat into restaurants’ much-needed profits.
What they do: The female-owned and -staffed auto repair shop is empowering female mechanics and car owners in an industry that’s almost entirely dominated by men. They also offer manis, pedis, and waxing while you wait.
Do-good jawn: Their Girls Auto Clinic Car Care Workshops educate women on basic car care, maintenance, and repairs—and are entirely free. And last August, owner Patrice Banks co-launched the Women of Color Automotive Network (WOCAN), a nonprofit that seeks to connect women of color within the industry with mentors, financial resources and other things they need to be successful.
What they do: Led by Achola Simkins and Amanda Kole, Uprising ACM is a new yoga, movement and cultural hub on East Passyunk Avenue in South Philly.
Do-good jawn: Uprising ACM (Arts, Culture, Movement) focuses on inclusiveness and serving marginalized communities in a safe, respectful and non judgemental environment—a refreshing antidote to the oft-superficial workout scene.
What they serve: Southern Style Ice Cream in flavors like Sweet Potato Pie, Butter Pralines, Chocolate Chocolate Chip Brownie, Banana Pudding, Strawberry Shortcake, and more.
Do-good jawn: West Philly native Andre Andrews founded his company with the vision of creating jobs and opportunities in underserved and underdeveloped communities in the Philadelphia area.
What they serve: Omar Tate’s Honeysuckle pop-ups were famous for their battered fried chicken, salad studded with snow crab and edible flowers and honey pie. Now, he’s expanding on Honeysuckle with big plans for West Philly.
Do-good jawn: Tate is raising funds to open a community center in West Philly’s Mantua neighborhood that will serve as a grocery store, cafe, arts hub, and source of jobs and joy. Support his GoFundMe here.
What they serve: Coffee, tea, sandwiches, parfaits—all the comforting staples you want in your neighborhood cafe.
Do-good jawn: Franny Lou’s name pays homage to two civil rights activists: Fannie Lou Hamer and Frances E.W. Harper; in their spirit, the cafe has become a community gathering place, offering workshops in topics from radical self-love to African-Americans’ connection to the land and agriculture.
What they serve: The restaurant group operates Relish, Warmdaddys, South, and Green Soul.
Do-good jawn: Bynum created The Hero Kitchen to support healthcare heroes during the pandemic, providing workers on the frontlines with freshly prepared dinners on Sunday afternoons.
What they serve: Deep-dish, Detroit-style pizza! Plus wings.
Do-good jawn: As writer Maddy Sweitzer-Lamme reported earlier this month, Kurt Evans created Down North with a very specific mission in mind: to provide employment opportunities to formerly incarcerated people who might otherwise be left out of the job market. Support their Go Fund Me here.