By John W. Davis
INGLEWOOD — Opening a new business is always a risky venture. Opening one in the midst of a pandemic is more risky.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was recently held for Inglewood’s newest black-owned apparel store.
Vacancy Avenue, which is located in the 1300 block of North La Brea Avenue, prides itself as a creative space for the culture, selling black-owned clothing and accessory brands.
The importance of being a black-owned business in Inglewood, in the midst of development and gentrification is not lost on Tramell Johnson.
“I think it was important for us not only to land here but actually create a staple, a landmark, an iconic location,” said Johnson, one of the owners of Vacancy Avenue and Amoir Noir Los Angeles clothing brand. “We want to build a place that will last through gentrification and be a cultural landmark and I think it’s important for us to show other young black people that this is something that we all can achieve.”
It was an inspiring grand opening for Tijahnni Newton. She is one of the local entrepreneurs with items for sale inside Vacancy Avenue.
“The tassel earrings, rings and the quartz earrings,” Newton said when proudly pointing to her items. “It’s really cool. First time that someone can really come into a storefront and see my items.”
Newton said it is a completely different experience than shipping out her custom-made jewelry from home.
“We’re moving into the digital age of things but this is real,” she said. “I hope we never get away from being able to walk up the street and go into a black establishment and buy black-owned brands. That’s what we need.”
Similar sentiments were echoed by Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. on Aug. 15.
“There’s been such a fear that big businesses, the billion dollar businesses coming in, would eclipse opportunities for small businesses,” Butts said. “That’s why I’m particularly proud to be here to celebrate the opening of Vacancy. … I want to congratulate all of you for staking your claim here in the city of Inglewood.”
“Hopefully, we continue to build upon these spaces and create more spaces like this,” Johnson added.
Johnson also wanted to make sure the grand opening gave something directly back to the community. The event also served as a contact-less back-to-school supplies donation drive for hundreds of students at a nearby elementary school.
“This event is fabulous and we’re so appreciative of it.” said Nicole Peters, the principal at ICEF Inglewood Elementary Charter School. “We want to be active members in Inglewood. We’re just here for the children and making sure that the children are staying educated during this time of the pandemic.”
“The fact that you focus on children is so important because true equality in this country will never occur until we equalize the educational system and the focus has to be on the children so that’s the generation that truly becomes equal,” Butts said.
Opening a business in the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic has not been easy. However, it has made everyone involved with opening Vacancy grateful and thankful.
“It’s definitely been challenging, but exciting,” said Rachel Johnson. “Currently, we’re living in unprecedented times, so in a way this has really given us a chance to focus and reflect on what we’re trying to do.”