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Black Business Month A Much-Needed Boost Along Delmar Loop

August is Black Business Month, and for Delmar Loop-based bakeshop owner Stephanie White, the 31 days of attention to small businesses like hers are particularly welcome this year.

White, who opened Sugar Momma’s at 6016 Delmar Blvd. in 2016, hasn’t seen as much foot traffic as she’d hoped for the past few years. The bakeshop is located on the eastern edge of the Loop district, and time and again she’s watched people walking the area turn back west just before reaching her block.

“They get to Delmar and Rosedale, [and] they don’t think anything else is down there,” White said.

Once COVID-19 entered the mix, the challenges escalated. But Sugar Momma’s is still hanging on, and with a month of celebrating Black-owned businesses now well underway, White is seeing an uptick in awareness that the bakeshop is in fact open for masked, socially distant business.

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Stephanie White & Brian Hurd
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Stephanie White, at left, is the owner of Sugar Momma’s in the Delmar Loop. Brian Hurd is an urban planner and community development consultant.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, White joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss some of the joys and struggles she’s experienced as a small-business owner — and the hopes she has for herself and fellow Black entrepreneurs going forward.

Urban planner and community development consultant Brian Hurd, who helped create a strategic plan for the Loop, also participated in the conversation. He noted that the nearly 30 Black-owned businesses that call the Loop home seem to have clustered there organically.

“I would not say that it’s been intentional … you have these clusters of businesses where somebody may go to get their haircut [and] they may be an entrepreneur and say: ‘You know what, this is a good area. Maybe I’ll open up my business here,’” Hurd said.

Black women entrepreneurs are numerous among the small businesses along the Loop, reflecting broader trends across Missouri and the nation as a whole. But that growth doesn’t always translate to the kind of networking and camaraderie that can provide critical support.

“I don’t have a lot of time to mingle,” White explained. “I do know Tamika [Stigers] down at Locs of Glory, Orlando [Watson] on the other corner. But I don’t have a lot of time, because I’m still cradling Sugar Momma’s right now.”

Her business started out in her kitchen at home, where she would create candy and other delights with her young grandson just for fun.

“After that, I started making little desserts and treats and things for church, and after that it just got so busy I couldn’t do it anymore in my kitchen,” White said.

Looking to the future, Hurd said he’s focused on helping build “a unified voice” for busy small-business owners in the Loop.

“When you have a unified voice and you’re working together and you’re networking,” he said, “it creates other opportunities for banks and financial institutions [and] local government to really plug into what’s going on.”

The broadcast included prerecorded comments from 26th Ward Alderwoman Shameem Clark Hubbard, who operated a hair salon along the Loop for about 15 years and has been working to support business owners struggling during the COVID-19 crisis.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Evie is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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