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Black-Owned Businesses Ready To Grow As Milwaukee's Sherman Phoenix Reopens

Simone Cazares
Sherman Phoenix is a hub for Black-owned businesses in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee’s Sherman Phoenix has reopened. It’s the first time the building has been open for full service since the pandemic began more than a year ago. Many businesses were limited to curbside and carryout, which impacted their services.

The facility in the Sherman Park neighborhood first opened in 2018. That was two years after some buildings were burned down following a police shooting in the area.

Sherman Phoenix is a hub for Black entrepreneurs. But when the pandemic hit the city hard, many of those small business owners fought to make it through.

Simone Cazares / WUWM
Latrece Hendrickson of Salon Lavish with her husband Andre Hendrickson

“The past year was a struggle,” says Latrece Hendrickson, owner of Salon Lavish. “It left us feeling hopeless and also uncomfortable because we didn't know where we were going. We didn't know how this was going to play out. We didn't know if this was a forever thing or what.”

Hendrickson says in the past year, there were times when she wasn’t sure if the salon would be able to stay afloat. Now that Sherman Phoenix has reopened, she says she’s excited for what the future holds.

Simone Cazares
Nakiiya Williams of Rhoyal Trinity.

“I'm not sitting down anymore. I'm ready to go,” Hendrickson says. “Nothing is in the way right now and the world is pretty much opening back up. Now it's time for us to really show 2020 what type of beast they built us to be.”

For many business owners at Sherman Phoenix, it has been a place where they can come together as a community and find support. Nakiiya Williams of Rhoyal Trinity says those resources make the businesses even stronger.

“It's a symbol of a new Milwaukee,” Williams says. “People can come to one spot and see so many different things, not just one particular business, but how all of our minds work, how we put things to action and just actually making our business work for us and sustain. If you haven’t experienced it, come here. It's like nothing you've ever seen before and it feels different as soon as you walk in the door.”

Simone Cazares
Chandra Cooper owns Queen's Closet.

Now that more customers can gather at Sherman Phoenix, many business owners are feeling good about what’s to come in the future, but say they still need more people in Milwaukee to come to Sherman Phoenix and back small Black-owned businesses. Chandra Cooper, owner of Queen's Closet, is one of them.

"Our future depends on the support of the community. It depends on the support of funders, and we're just hoping that people get back in line and start living as much of a normal life as they can,” Cooper says. “Let's just do this. Be safe and let's continue to live our life and enjoy this incredible space that we have in the community."

Business owners at Sherman Phoenix hope the center will continue to grow.

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