The COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have changed the world as we know it, right down to how we buy things. Black-owned businesses have exceptionally been hit hard during this time, being down 68% from March to July in active businesses according to a WHYY report.
Shanti Mayers, a mother and the owner of The Sable Collective, has felt the effects of both the Black Lives Matter movement and the COVID-19 pandemic first-hand but continues to persevere.
Founded in late 2016, The Sable Collective is more than just a boutique; it’s a community space for Black creatives to feel comfortable with being themselves.
“I found that there weren’t many boutiques in Philadelphia that catered to Black women, many of which were similar since they were owned by white women and many of the stationary or you know if there are any cultural references. It was always to like predominant white culture,” said Mayers.
Ultimately, Meyers decided that a space was needed for Black women and people of color that offered “really nice unique well-made items that reflected us and were majority made by us,” said Meyers.
Instagram played a pivotal role in the conception of The Sable Collective by allowing Mayers to reach out to various local creatives about being featured in the store.
“There were all these amazing and talented designers, writers, and artists that I followed on Instagram, and then just invited them into the store, said Mayers.
“So not only was a boutique that had unique stuff for people of color, but it featured a lot of the makers that visitors followed online that could like handle in real life and really get a sense of the quality.”
As a Philadelphia native, Mayers is proud of the creativity that is coming out of her local community, and it shows the beauty of Black creativity nationwide.
“Philadelphia has a really amazing community of makers, jewelry designers and clothing designers and just like a vibrant community of creatives, said Mayers.
The beauty in that is that it reflects an even greater community of makers, just like nationwide of Black folks that are making really dope stuff.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the retail space as we know it, and Mayers is continuously using her instinct in navigating it.
“Unfortunately, the brick and mortar space was only able to stay open for 6 months; we were really just starting to get the ball rolling right before the pandemic hit,” said Mayers.
Mayers knew it was the best decision to close down in terms of economics and safety for herself and her family and is grateful she was quickly able to pivot to an online platform and still receive a tremendous amount of support.
Black-owned businesses have had a long-standing and complex relationship in the United States and local communities. Still, they serve as a beacon of hope for many communities and create a sense of family.
“[The Sable Collective] brings a sense of familiarity and safety,” said Mayers. “When I did have the physical space, women who walked into the store often would like to look around and take a really deep breath and just like, sigh and feel like, wow, this is a really good space,” Mayers added.
Due to the closure of the physical retail space and COVID-19 safety guidelines, creating a sense of community is harder than ever, but Mayers still finds a way to do so.
“I try to recreate that atmosphere virtually, whether it be through laughing, a unique silly product, or talking about the importance of doing some self-care. Anything really that reinforces the importance and the beauty of our existence,” said Mayers.
Mayers sees a new chapter of her life, beginning a chapter filled with taking things more slowly.
“America specifically is being forced to slow down and to like realize that the things that were working before may not necessarily work in the future,”
“I’m learning to listen to myself, and my intuition to my help lead with my business deals and my well being, I realize that I do not have to continue on the hamster wheel of ‘go, go, go’ I have to take one day at a time and trust that all of my needs will be met,” said Mayers.
Images courtesy of Shanti Mayers and The Sable Collective Instagram