Hippin Hops owner Clarence Boston photographed at his East Atlanta Village location. Photo by Dean Hesse.
By Patrick Saunders
Stone Mountain is in the midst of a revival, and Black-owned businesses are leading the way.
From restaurants to retail spots to coworking spaces and more, business owners across the city are showing a vivid display of Black entrepreneurship.
“We believe that there is an awakening in the Black community and we are not only taking advantage of the opportunities available but also creating opportunities,” said Stacey Arthur, who opened wing joint Drumz N Flatz with her husband John on Stone Mountain Highway in March.
The surge in Black entrepreneurship in the Stone Mountain area reflects changing demographics, according to Arthur.
Stone Mountain’s overall population declined by nearly 20 percent between 2000 and 2010. But the percentage of Black residents in the city went up from 69 to 75 percent at the same time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The population drop and Great Recession took its toll though, according to Clarence Boston.
Drumz N Flatz owners John and Stacey Arthur. Photo by Dean Hesse.
“I met my wife at [the since-closed tavern] Dugan’s 15 years ago and that corridor was thriving big time then just kind of fell off,” he said.
The Bostons moved to North Carolina shortly after to buy a funeral home. Since 2010, the overall population in Stone Mountain has rebounded with an eight percent increase, and the Black share of the city’s population is now 78 percent.
The Bostons became part of that rebound, selling the funeral home and moving back to Stone Mountain in 2020 to start a string of breweries called Hippin’ Hops, the first Black-owned brick-and-mortar brewery in Georgia. They’re opening a location on Memorial Drive in Stone Mountain by the end of the year.
“The county has some really big plans that are gonna happen in the next two to five years for that particular corridor,” Boston said. “They’ve already started implementing new landscape design, so a lot of good things are supposed to be coming.”
Black commerce battles city’s ‘terrible’ racial legacy
The Arthurs and the Bostons are just part of the flood of Black business owners making their mark in Stone Mountain in recent years.
Natural haircare salon The Curl Conqueror opened on Hairston Road in 2018. Coworking space C3 Village and holistic therapy clinic Listening Hands opened on Main Street downtown in 2019. Healthy fast-casual spot Trend Urban Café opened on Stone Mountain Highway in 2020.
This year the Black-owned business movement spiked. In downtown alone, souvenir shop Rock Steady, CBD dispensary and smoke shop Smokeonia, holistic boutique Village Gemz and bookstore and wine bar The Vibrary opened. The Mailroom Lounge restaurant with live jazz will join them this fall.
“There has been an increase in the confidence of Black economics,” Arthur said. “We are gradually realizing that there is strength in numbers when we work together as a community.”
But as with all things Stone Mountain, the city’s association with the world’s largest Confederate monument is never far from mind.
Jelani Linder, chair of the city’s Downtown Development Authority, said he’s “very excited” about the new businesses and diversity happening in Stone Mountain Village.
Owners Lorenzo and Shemeka Maddox hold the keys to the space that will become the Mailroom Lounge. Photo by Dean Hesse.
“We normally get overshadowed by the mountain’s past, but we have always been a diverse community that has welcomed everyone,” he said. “We are really happy to see that people are starting to invest and take notice of our thriving ‘Village.’”
Shemeka Maddox, who co-owns the forthcoming Mailroom Lounge with her husband Lorenzo, agreed that the monument is usually the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Stone Mountain.
“The city has a terrible legacy from the monument to white supremacy,” Maddox said.
Maddox said she’s committed to investing in the city where she was raised.
“Our childhood began in Stone Mountain,” she said. “As a child, the vision for Black ownership was illustrated as a wealth gap that greatly inhibits the ability to start a business or create generational wealth. It was important for us to strategically place our business in the community that we were raised in.”
“We definitely stand as an example of what’s possible in this city if you really stay rooted here,” she added.
Village Gemz owner Jasmine Little is happy to see the city’s evolution.
“You wouldn’t think that it would be the way it is with the history that we have,” she said.
Little contributed to that evolution in other ways. As a member of the Stone Mountain City Council, she was a force in getting the city to host its first-ever Juneteenth event this year.
She thinks word of mouth also plays a role in the city’s Black business boom.
“As Black business owners come in, they fall in love with the city and they recommend the city to their friends,” she said. “A lot of my friends are here because of recommendations from other Black business owners.”
Turning dreams into reality
The spike in Black-owned businesses in Stone Mountain comes amid a nationwide racial justice movement — a pillar of which has been a call to support such businesses.
Business owners throughout the city want people to know which direction to head.
“You want to go see a Black business, go to Stone Mountain,” Little said.
Several owners said it’s about time, citing the barriers that have held them back.
“It can be difficult for any business to succeed, but Black entrepreneurs have historically faced unique challenges,” Maddox said.
The Vibrary owner Candace Walker agreed.
“As a Black woman entrepreneur, I am very conscious that groups who historically haven’t been at the table must be supported because we all benefit from industries and organizations that are inclusive and diverse,” she said.
The Vibrary owner Candace Walker. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Boston said it’s important to support Black-owned businesses not just now but all the time.
“We are a big percentage of the economy that supports other businesses that are not Black,” he said. “I just think it should be reciprocated, especially if you have a good product and a legitimate business that you’re offering.”
The success of Black entrepreneurs can inspire future generations, according to Little.
“I think that it’s important for our children to understand that people that look like them can have the opportunity to be an entrepreneur,” she said.
It’s about grabbing hold of the moment, according to Arthur.
“We were always dreamers and visionaries and are now taking the steps to making these dreams and visions a reality.”
Read the original story on TuckerObserver.com.