Where Are They Now? Local Black Motor City Match Businesses Are Still Thriving No Matter the Odds

They are your local learning centers, lounges, hair salons, favorite eateries and more — and they’re still open for business despite the year that was 2020. And, as a matter of fact, last year was their year because they opened back then (when others closed) with the help of Motor City Match (MCM).

 

Fourteen of these MCM businesses are Black- and/or women-owned. Four out of five businesses helped by MCM are minority-owned.

 

“They are hiring local residents, providing stability to the community, attracting other businesses and giving back,” one MCM official told The Michigan.

 

MCM is a partnership among the City of Detroit, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC), the Economic Development Corporation of the City of Detroit (EDC) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Competitive financial assistance is supported by a broad partnership of Southeast Michigan community development financial institutions, foundations and corporations.

 

Also, as of late, due to the state easing pandemic-related restrictions, restaurants and some businesses have been able to reopen under certain guidelines and at reduced capacity. In particular, the Black-owned Detroit restaurants (who are MCM awardees) reopened when Michigan’s indoor dining restrictions were lifted on February 1 after being closed and then partially reopening. They include:

  • Norma G’s, 14628 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit
  • MCM Grant award amount: $60,000

 

  • The Kitchen by Cooking with Que, 6529 Woodward Ave., Suite A, Detroit
  • MCM Grant award amount: $60,000

 

  • Yum Village, 6500 Woodward Ave., Detroit
  • MCM Grant award amount: $50,000

 

Lance McGhee II, owner of Detroit-based Playa vs. Playa Gaming Lounge/Storm Cigar and Hookah Lounge, and an MCM recipient of $60,000, said that his businesses were negatively impacted due to COVID-19 shutdowns. His cigar and hookah lounge has been closed since November. His game lounge was allowed to open a little more than three weeks ago. Storm Cigar and Hookah reopened on February 1.

An inside look at Playa vs. Playa Gaming Lounge Photo provided by Lance McGhee II

 

“2020 rendered both of my businesses paralyzed but we did what we could to be as agile as we could given the governor’s restrictive orders,” he said, adding that being flexible allowed Storm Cigar and Hookah to now start a cigar delivery service. “(We) will deliver cigars and Hookah supplies to customers for purchases of $30 or more.”

Cigars and other items can be shipped online at stormcigarandhookah.com.

 

“For my Cigar and Hookah lounge, we only made a fraction of the revenue on carryout sales that we were making on in-store sales since opening in October. It has been difficult, but we are still holding on,” he added.

 

McGhee added that the MCM grant, which he received in 2018, assisted him in rehabbing the building that houses both of his businesses.

 

“I was elated once I found out that I’d be receiving assistance with my building rehab, which sat vacant at 15850 Wyoming for 20 years before my ownership. It needed a complete rehab from the ground up,” McGhee said. “The funds were used for labor and materials for new walls, heating, cooling, electrical, painting and equipment for my business.”

 

“Also, through my participation, I’ve been able to connect with a community of other small business owners and organizations that have helped and provided assistance. The experience with MCM has been beneficial to me,” McGhee added.

 

Playa vs Playa Gaming Lounge is a gaming facility that can be reserved for private events, tournaments and esports practices that are closed to the public.

They offer memberships for $25 and $50 a month which includes members-only hours, free guest invites and more. Non-members and the public can reserve private space for $125 per hour with a two-hour minimum.

 

Since reopening, Storm Cigar and Hookah will be allowed to take customers with minimum capacity inside. They have outdoor features, too.

 

“We will have heated igloos for our customers on our outside patio to extend our capacity and offer a unique experience in our neighborhood,” McGhee said.

 

Playa vs Playa Gaming is opened on a reservation-only basis and will also have reduced capacity hosting, about 10 gamers max, until the restrictions are reexamined in a couple of weeks.

 

“We take the health of our patrons and employees seriously and contract with a minority-owned COVID-19 remediation company called Coronaforce1, which provides electrostatic cleaning (such as what the airlines use) to clean our facility. We also conduct temp check, contact tracing and regular disinfecting practices.”

 

Pierre Batton, vice president of small business services for Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, said that the playing field is not level when it comes to business ownership.

 

“Black entrepreneurs are at least twice as likely to be denied capital to start a business, and such experiences make Black entrepreneurs more hesitant to seek financing to launch a new business venture or to expand an existing business,” Batton said. “That’s only one hurdle Black entrepreneurs face and that’s why programs like Motor City Match are so important, especially in Detroit – a majority-minority city. The program helps potential business owners develop a sustainable plan, locate a storefront, create a welcoming design and provide cash that can be used for gap financing. In addition, the program provides a variety of technical assistance like legal aid, marketing, accounting and navigating the City’s zoning requirements. Especially during economic downturns, programs like Motor City Match help Black-owned businesses to open and stay open.”

 

ChaVonne McGowan, owner and director of Seeds of Knowledge Creative Learning Center in Detroit, closed on March 16, 2020, and re-opened with limited enrollment on June 15, 2020.

ChaVonne McGowan, owner and director of Seeds of Knowledge Creative Learning Center in Detroit. Photo provided by ChaVonne McGowan

“My business has had to pivot because I had to reduce the number of children that I could enroll,” she told The Michigan Chronicle. “I also had to change procedures to our health and wellness policy to ensure that my students, my team and myself were taking the proper precautions against COVID-19.”

 

McGowan’s business received $50,000 in MCM funding in September 2019 which she used to complete renovations and purchase inventory.

 

“The first impact MCM made was that the MCM team believed in my vision and mission to provide a quality academic program for children in Detroit. Motor City Match also provided valuable resources and connections to help support my transition into the business world,” McGowan said, adding that her customers should know that I take pride in ensuring a safe nurturing and academically rich environment is provided “before, during and after the challenges of COVID.”

 

McGowan also said that as a Black business owner during a pandemic “it has been a struggle.”

 

“I have made many sacrifices to open my business. It is not easy, but I have faced so many challenges that I can’t succumb to the pandemic. I take pride in contributing to the local economy.”

 

Fourteen Motor City Match-awarded small businesses opened in Detroit in 2020, many of which are Black-owned businesses:

 

Seeds of Knowledge Creative Learning Center, 15101 W. McNichols, Detroit

MCM Grant Amount: $50,000

 

Fahrenheit 313, 20114 Livernois Ave. Detroit

MCM Grant Amount: $25,000

 

Greenwood District Company, 17221 Mack Ave., Detroit

MCM Grant Amount: $25,000

 

Yes We CAN, 8810-18820 Woodward Ave., Detroit

MCM Grant Amount: $30,000

 

Textures by Nefertiti, 6525 Woodward Ave., Detroit

MCM Grant Amount: $70,000

 

Playa Vs. Playa, 15850 Wyoming Detroit

MCM Grant Amount: $60,000

 

Lush Yummies Pie Co., 520 Adelaide St., Detroit

MCM Grant Amount: $25,000

 

Bronzed N Glow Beauty Boutique, 19327 Livernois Ave., Detroit

MCM Grant Amount: $45,000

 

 

Pedicure and Shoes 2 Go, 9517 E. Jefferson, Detroit

MCM Grant Award: $50,000

 

MCM Awards are presented four times a year in four categories: a matching cash grant, business plan, business design or business location selection. Motor City Match applications are available quarterly.

 

 

 

 

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