Buy Black Chambana hosts pop-up shop in Helms Park


Photo Courtesy of Brendan Jones

The “Royal DystruXion” dance group from Danville performs at the Buy Black Chambana hosted pop-up shop in Helms Park on Sept. 11. The event aims to document and share Black-owned businesses in the Champaign-Urbana area.

By Brendyn Jones, Assistant Sports On-Air Editor

Buy Black Chambana, an online directory that aims to document and share Black-owned businesses in the Champaign-Urbana area, hosted the Urban Market Pop-up shop for the fourth week in a row on Saturday. 

The market, set up in Helm’s park, offered spaces for local businesses and vendors to sell products and offer services to community members. Saturday’s market included food trucks and a dance performance by a dance team from Danville called “Royal DystruXion.” The market was scheduled this year for five Saturdays from Aug. 28 to Sept. 25. 

Mariah Madison created Buy Black Chambana to connect the community to Black businesses in the area. Madison owns a small business called Nannyville LLC, which offers nannying services in the community. Her own experience of being a Black business owner in Champaign pushed her to pursue connections with other business owners. 

“Our events are always about creating positive spaces for people of color to really embrace their culture and celebrate who they are,” Madison said about the environment of the markets and what they mean to the Black community. 

She says it creates a community of business owners that helps them create relationships and is the “difference between a business owner giving up and continuing to push forward.”

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Madison says that even if she doesn’t see the progress on her own, the feedback she gets from other people reminds her of her growth. 

The pandemic has been an especially hard time for small businesses, as they face health restrictions and hiring issues. Madison has tried to work through those challenges with food vendors. For example, she has worked with them to provide different catering options or boxed to-go meals to increase sales. 

Dejuante Walker and Anthony Luis Najera own a fashion company called XOALN Originals l. They were set up on Saturday selling T-shirts with their logo, the letter “X” next to a heart with a line through the middle of both. They say it represents sharing love while also setting boundaries and promoting self-love. Dejuante and Anthony plan to attend the market through the end of it on Sept. 25. 

Walker and Najera are from California and have been in the area for just over a year. The market was their first pop-up shop experience since starting XOALN, and it has brought them a new channel for sales. It has also helped them connect with the Champaign-Urbana community.

“We do have a lot of connections that we made being here,” Najera said.

The business started during the pandemic and with Walker and Najera moving from California, they lacked connections in the area.  

Walker and Najera have been trying to connect with like-minded owners who also have small businesses or arts they want to continue growing.

However, there have been hurdles to the market. As it is only in its second year, it is still growing and gaining a bigger turnout. 

Victoria Williams is the owner of Essentially Yours Candle Co. The company has been running for around two years now and has operated through the entirety of the pandemic, which has been hard for her business. She has a consistent client base but obtaining new customers has been hard for her. 

Williams hopes to one day own a brick-and-mortar store and leave something behind for her daughter. Williams sees attending pop-up shops as an opportunity to get her name and her business more publicity. However, she says it’s been a struggle to accomplish that and make connections. 

“I have got a few people that have become my regular customers, but no, it’s starting to feel pointless if you want my honest opinion,” Williams said. “It’s not what it seems. I don’t know, I guess if you pick a certain location you would think that there would be more people, you’d get more traffic.”

The location for the market was only secured around a week in advance, so reaching out to businesses and advertising the events was a struggle. The market now has the Helms Park location secured for the coming years, so planning for the future can start earlier. 

However, Madison is still excited about the upcoming dates, especially with vendors like Brother George’s BBQ who is coming from Kankakee, Illinois. The market hopes to continue to grow over the last few weekends of September with more vendors scheduled to make appearances at the final two dates of the market.  

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