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Explore Durham's Burgeoning Black-Owned Businesses

Estimated Read Time:
3 minutes

In the early twentieth century, Durham's Parrish Street was a hub of African American business activity that gained national recognition. That was just the beginning.

Posted By Discover Durham Staff on Feb 21, 2020

The four-block district was known as “Black Wall Street,” received praise from national leaders W. E. B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington, and present-day black businesses owners are cultivating paving their own lucrative paths.

Urban renewal wiped out much of the black business community by the 1960s, but over time black-owned businesses have made a comeback thanks to savvy entrepreneurs. In 2016, Durham was recognized as the No. 4 city in America for black women to launch a thriving business by Black Enterprise, and start-up hub American Underground led the nation in entrepreneurial diversity. Since then, food trucks, pop-ups, and brick and mortars have blossomed throughout Durham, with driven, passionate people of color at the helm.

We asked Durhamites which black-owned businesses or institutions they love supporting in Durham; check them out on your next trip here.

Bright Black

Bright Black candles "pay tribute to black greatness one beautifully-crafted candle at a time." Intended to "change narratives and enlighten the world," these candles were created to release scents intended to get you talking about the complexities of identity, rich black history and community. Developed by Tiffany M. Griffin, PhD, the Durham scent contains hints of tobacco, cotton and whiskey, each from local, treasured sources and carefully cultivated to pay homage to Durham's grit, authenticity, and soul.

Boricua Soul

Husband-and-wife team Toriano and Serena Fredericks have been melding their Puerto Rican and African American heritage into delightful bites for locals, and moved to a permanent space at the American Tobacco Campus in the summer of 2019.

Nolia Coffee

After opening over the summer, Nolia sought to create an environment that's all about family. The family-run coffee shop near Golden Belt is committed to blending great coffee and creating a kid-friendly space … while offering a relaxing and enjoyable spot for their caregivers.

North Carolina Central University

James E. Shepard Statue

As the nation’s first public, liberal arts college for African Americans, North Carolina Central University has a rich history among the African American entrepreneurial community not only in Durham but in the entire country. Notable alumni include Maynard Jackson Jr., the first AfricanAmerican mayor of Atlanta; André Leon Talley, contributing editor at Vogue magazine; and North Carolina Congressman George Kenneth “G.K.” Butterfield. NCCU was recognized by HBCU Digest as the top Historically Black College and University of 2016. Hop on a campus tour Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m., making sure to visit the NCCU Art Museum, which houses one of North Carolina’s leading collections of works by African American artists.

Pierce McCoy's Shoe Shine

Pierce McCoy

A Durham native, Pierce has been shining shoes for over 53 years, and it's a family business he learned from his father. You can find his setup outside of Beyu Caffe on a beautiful day, and tucked away by a staircase beyond the tables and chairs when it's rainy. "Over 80 pairs in one day," Pierce says of his busiest shift — but after hundreds (maybe thousands!) or clients in his chair, he wouldn't trade it for the world. He's a part of the fabric of Durham, and is well worth the shine (and the storytelling) the next time you're in town.

Saltbox Seafood Joint

Saltbox Seafood

Didn’t think it was possible to get fresh seafood this far from the coast? You haven’t visited Saltbox Seafood Joint. Classically trained Chef Ricky Moore has worked in restaurants in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, but in 2012 he gave it all up to open a walk-up seafood stand in Downtown Durham. Diners now line the street for Moore’s nationally-acclaimed softshell crabs, oysters, and of course, fried fish.

USA Today recognized Saltbox as a seafood shack worth a stop, and Eater recognized Saltbox as one of 10 indispensable Durham restaurants. Keep in mind: the menu varies daily. You can find the day’s specials posted on Facebook, written on a chalkboard outside the downtown location, and inside the recently opened second location in Lakewood, Saltbox Seafood II.

Beyù Caffè

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Owned by Dorian Bolden, Beyú Caffé is part coffee shop, restaurant, bar, and jazz club. Coffee connoisseurs will love both the traditional coffee beverages as well as specialty drinks and coffee cocktails like the Oprah Mocha and Irish Coffee. Mental Floss recognized Beyú Caffé as the best coffee shop in North Carolina. Here's an insider tip: stay for Sunday brunch or the occasional late evening chat over coffee.

Morehead Manor

Morehead Manor

Owned by Daniel and Monica Edwards, Morehead Manor Bed and Breakfast opened to the public back in 1997 as a staple of African American excellence in hospitality. Each of the four spacious guest rooms have a private bath, and the inn serves complimentary beverages, homemade desserts, and a full breakfast each morning. Morehead Manor was profiled by OneGlobe Citizen in 2016, and the 8,000 square-foot, Colonial Revival-style home is within walking distance to downtown, and key landmarks like the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, DPAC, and Brightleaf Square.

Dame’s Chicken & Waffles

Find your favorite comfort food pairing at the original Dame’s Chicken and Waffles, where crispy, Southern fried chicken meets fluffy and sweet European waffles. The golden waffles are served with their signature “shmears,” made of whipped sweet crème butters that are flavored with natural ingredients like Strawberry Crème, Maple Pecan, or Chocolate Hazelnut. Not a waffle fan? Dame’s also serves classic southern brunch dishes like shrimp and grits and blackened salmon.

Eater recognized Dame's as one of Durham's 10 indispensible restaurants. Locals know: there is often a line out the door, but it is worth the wait!

The Zen Succulent

Zen Succulent

Mother-and-daughter team Margaret and Megan George founded The Zen Succulent in 2012 after several years of urban gardening. The modern terrarium and plant craft business is inspired by natural surroundings, a love for urban planting, and delight in color. Each terrarium is crafted by hand, featuring locally sourced natural and preserved plants and sea life, and the Georges hand-mix their own soil. The Zen Succulent retail shop is located in the heart of Downtown Durham on East Parrish street. StyleBlueprint highlighted the plant shop and featured an interview with Megan, who has styled homes for HGTV. On your next visit, get hands-on at the DIY terrarium bar where you can design your own mini garden, or take a workshop for a guided experience.

Empower Dance Studio

Both Nicole Oxendine and Jessica Burroughs allowed their passion and drive to plant them in the heart of Durham, devoting themselves to community engagement, teaching, and mentoring both in and out of the studio. Oxendine authors the dance curriculum for the Durham Public School system, has a Master’s in dance/movement therapy focused on adolescents with developmental disabilities, and was a principal dancer at Bellan Contemporary Dance Theater. Burroughs is a local Hillside Highs School alumna and studied Ballet at the American Dance Ensemble, as well as Modern & Jazz with Dallas Black Dance Theatre among others.

WRAL covered Empower Dance Studio in a video, citing their body positivity and self-confidence enhancing programming for all. Check their website for free public workshops offered year-round.

Sabrina Seymore Events

Sabrina is all about sharing the love. This North Carolina Central University alumna brings signature creativity, style and organization to events, weddings and gatherings, committing herself to flawless execution. Her southwest Durham event company has been selected as a winner of Wedding Wires' Couple's Choice Award, as well as awards from The Knot, and Best of Durham distinctions. Be sure to consider Durham if you're planning an impromptu wedding or anniversary party.

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Discover Durham Staff