By Kiki Wilson
The Partnership is thrilled to introduce Voices of Downtown Frederick – a blog series highlighting the many communities that help make Downtown Frederick special. This month’s blog celebrates Black-Owned Businesses and is written by Kiki Wilson, founder of OUT40 Media.
At ten years old, Amira watched her grandmother empty the old spaghetti bowl at the kitchen sink and together they made a candle from a beginner’s kit she had bought from a local craft store earlier that day. It was the beginning of perfecting a hobby, and later, a business.
Like Amira, Chris shares a homegrown story of supply and demand. While working at his old shop, Chris would often get asked if he was the owner. He always meekly replied no, while his supporters encouraged him to embark on his own path. The unwavering confidence from his clientele pushed him to finally start his business.
When Darren was stationed at Fort Detrick in 1990, he never spent a night there. He was so close to his hometown after being deployed for years prior that he would find any reason to race back to uptown D.C. Little did he know that thirty years later, Frederick would be the place he called home…and he would love it.
From Perfecting Her Craft to Point of Sale
On the night Chappelle & Co. went live, Amira Rittelmeyer thought, “I’m going to give this a shot.” And successfully, she sold seven candles. It had been a moment worth building up to; she had received great feedback, expanded her offerings and learned the science to candle-making — enough to propel her forward. By the weekend, Amira had Chappelle & Co. at a pop-up shop. Before she knew it, Amira had the keys to her brick and mortar storefront.
Having landed on Market after being on East Patrick Street, Amira contributes 100 percent of her success to the support of the Downtown Frederick community. She felt the personal embrace of the entrepreneurial culture and appreciation for the hustle.
Amira’s journey not only inspires others to pursue their dreams but also highlights the importance of supporting black-owned businesses in Downtown Frederick. Their story serves as a reminder that when we come together as a community, we can create a thriving and inclusive environment where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.
Persevering to Success
Inside the barbershop is the everyday man’s haven. The buzzing of clippers, relatable conversations, and relationships built from a chair are comforts to daily living.
When Chris Foreman opened Affiliated in 2019, he wanted to show exactly what a “good” barbershop was. At that time, black barber shops carried a lackluster reputation with a members-only like air — but Chris was determined to change that narrative. He started with the name. To him, Affiliated means “for everyone;” an intentional outreach to all demographics to create a welcoming space for all. And as he welcomed customers, Downtown Frederick welcomed him.
Chris had not planned on setting up shop downtown. There were three other barbershops on the block – he scoffed at the saturation and didn’t want to compete. Whittier was a better option, he thought. But when 500 North Market fell in his lap, he took it. Four years later, Affiliated is left as the only black-owned barbershop still standing.
With the support of the community, Affiliated quickly gained popularity. Customers were drawn to the shop’s vibrant atmosphere, warm hospitality, and, of course, skillful cuts. The barbershop became a gathering place for people from all walks of life, fostering a sense of unity and celebration of diversity. Chris is now an active participant in the community, serving on the Partnership board and Education Committee at City Hall. He encourages anyone who has goals of opening a business downtown, especially black youth to, “Do it. Don’t give up. I’ll show you the way.”
Fulfilling an Underlying Local Need
After making Brunswick his home, one Saturday Darren Sheffield took a stroll down Market Street and realized that there was no place for a man to buy a pair of jeans in Downtown Frederick.
He had owned a successful clothing store in D.C. since 2005 and thought to bring his business acumen, the MIDAR brand, and flare here. MIDAR is an acronym that stands for “making individual dreams a reality.” Darren opened a chain of MIDAR companies that include a beauty bar, beer and wine store and clothing boutique all in the Frederick area in 2020.
One such business is “MIDAR Fashion LLC,” a boutique located in the heart of Market Street. The store offers a curated collection of clothing and accessories sourced from various designers and artisans. MIDAR Fashion not only provides customers with unique and stylish products but serves every customer from all walks of life.
As Darren says, “you gotta love the community. Get to know the community. You have to want the community, and they’ll want you.” He describes Frederick as a “relationship town” that is pro-small business and business owners. With a desire to make a positive impact and commitment to learn the local culture, Darren says the city is more than accommodating.
“It’s like they wanted me to be here.”
Today, MIDAR companies stands as an example of the success that can be achieved through hard work, passion, and community support.
In Darren’s success, he has became an advocate for other black entrepreneurs in Downtown Frederick. He actively mentors aspiring business owners, sharing his experiences and offering guidance. He also collaborates with other black-owned businesses, organizing events and initiatives that showcase the talent and creativity within the community.
Historically, black entrepreneurs have faced numerous challenges, including systemic racism, limited access to capital, and unequal opportunities. However, in Downtown Frederick, there is a different story.
For some, the journey began with a vision and a passion for their craft. These entrepreneurs recognized a gap in the market or a need within the community and decided to take the leap of faith to start their own businesses. They have emerged as shining examples of success and inspiration.
Downtown Frederick, Maryland, is a vibrant and diverse community that prides itself on its local businesses. Among these businesses are a number of black-owned establishments that contribute to the city’s unique cultural fabric. From restaurants and boutiques to craft shops and wellness or beauty centers, these businesses offer a wide range of products and services while also providing a platform for black entrepreneurs to thrive.
Supporting black-owned businesses in Downtown Frederick is not only a way to champion diversity but also a means of fostering economic growth and empowerment within the community.
Furthermore, Downtown Frederick Partnership, alternative community organizations and local government can play a crucial role in supporting black-owned businesses. By providing resources, mentorship programs, and financial assistance, these black entrepreneurs overcame some of the challenges they faced in starting or expanding their businesses.
Their success not only paves the way for future black entrepreneurs but also shatters stereotypes and challenges preconceived notions about black-owned businesses. With the continued support of the community and a commitment to excellence, black business owners in Downtown Frederick will continue to thrive and contribute to the colorful landscape of the city.
Chris is still pleasantly surprised when he hears his name called while walking down Market by fellow neighbors. Darren understands that there is a community waiting to have you. Amira loves having fellow entrepreneurs who get the grind and support her along the way.
Whether a clothing store, a candle shop, or barbershop, let us continue to embrace the opportunity to explore, engage, and uplift these businesses while also celebrating the rich cultural heritage they bring to our city. After all, Downtown Frederick is home to all …and will always be.
Kiki Wilson is owner of OUT40, a media company that covers the arts, people, and streets of Frederick, many may pass but do not see. OUT40 is the premier media outlet that houses art, entertainment, news, and storytelling through the POC lens since 2013. Connect with Kiki about social causes, music or your personal stories on LinkedIn or Instagram.