Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Ladvrim Mustafi
Beyond the iconic landmarks and trendy arts scene, Read Street in Baltimore quietly tells a powerful story of Black resilience. Once a thriving hub of Black-owned businesses in the 19th century, the street faced waves of change and gentrification. Today, a vibrant renaissance is underway. It is marked by the opening of at least five new Black-owned businesses in just two years.
This resurgence isn’t just about economics; it is about reclaiming history and building community. Residents and business owners know that this street used to be one of the great Black-owned business areas in the city. “Those are big shoes to fill, but ‘Motivation Motivates.’ We all want each other to succeed,” Kyle Johnson, owner of Bluestone Jewelry told The Baltimore Banner.
From William Hicks’ Mount Vernon Records, with its turntables and community spirit, to Anika Hobbs’ Nubian Hueman clothing store, Read Street brings creativity and collaboration. It is easy to see that these entrepreneurs aren’t just neighbors; they’re collaborators, cheerleaders, and inspiration for one another.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
This current entrepreneurial spirit is an echo from the past. Figures like Edward J. Fatin, a wealthy Black caterer, and Mother Mary Lange, founder of the country’s oldest Black Catholic school for girls, called Read Street their home. Even as gentrification swept through in the 20th century, the essence of Read Street endured.
The Shropshire family exemplifies this unwavering connection. From Maggie Shropshire-Addison’s groundbreaking purchase of a commercial building in 1983 to her daughter Marcia’s Indiginal Wellness, generations have left their mark on the street. While most family businesses have transitioned, the legacy of support and community remains.
This sense of camaraderie extends beyond commerce. Friends like William Hicks and Dura House readily strike deals and exchange playful boasts about dance moves. It’s a testament to the tight-knit tapestry woven by Read Street’s residents.
For Marcia Shropshire, Read Street’s renaissance is more than just a business trend. It’s a powerful symbol of Black entrepreneurship, resilience, and community spirit. As she told The Baltimore Banner, “I’m grateful to see small Black businesses grow on the block and in Mount Vernon as a whole.”
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