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How to Support Black-Owned Businesses in Minnesota

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The Penumbra Theatre production of 'For Colored Girls' / Allen Weeks

How to Support Black-Owned Businesses in Minnesota

By AFAR

Celebrate Minnesota’s rich African American culture while shopping small, hiking through gorgeous landscapes, sampling award-winning cuisine and exploring fascinating museums and other attractions.

Dudley Edmondson, an author and activist from Duluth

Nancy Latour-Edmondson

Duluth resident Dudley Edmondson has made a career out of capturing his love for nature, and inspiring his fellow African Americans to experience it firsthand. When we asked the activist/photographer/author to share his favorite trails for hiking in Minnesota, he was also eager to discuss the many Black-owned businesses he loves, starting with the Duluth-based caterer Doc. Witherspoon’s Soul Food Shack.

“They make really good traditional home-style soul food, including cornbread donuts made of sweet cornbread," he raves. "The bone-in fried chicken is a personal favorite. “It’s crispy and tasty — the bone adds to the flavor. It’s my favorite fried chicken in the city.” 

Here are some of his other top spots, from groundbreaking theaters to palate-expanding restaurants....

Gear Bags Plus owner Reckie James

Gear Bags Plus owner Reckie James

Gear up for the great outdoors 

A good place to start exploring is Edmondson’s favorite Twin Cities’ spot, the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary inside Theodore Wirth Regional Park.

“The Indigo Bunting is my favorite bird there," says Edmonton. "You’ll also see great crested flycatchers; the American goldfinch, which is a really beautiful bird, and species of bees and butterflies, such as monarchs, red-spotted purple butterflies, and Eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies.” 

Whether you're going for a leisurely stroll through the sanctuary or hitting nearby hiking and biking trails, kit up from the Roseville-based online shop Gear Bags Plus. Owner Reckie James specializes in high-quality sports bags fit for any outing, from gear bags to hiking backpacks. 

Black Garnet Books in St. Paul

Black Garnet Books

Support local arts communities

Seeking artistic adventures that include a broader cultural perspective? The Twin Cities have no shortage of options to consider. Start off with an afternoon at the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery, a cultural institution whose aim is to preserve, record and celebrate the history, art and culture of Black people in Minnesota. 

From there, explore theater and the arts at a variety of renowned local places, such as Penumbra Theatre, which was conceived by Artistic Director Lou Bellamy to create space for African American voices on stage. Likewise, the New Dawn Theatre in St. Paul puts a spotlight on voices from minorities, women and LGBTQ playwrights. 

Support the local arts scene in North Minneapolis at New Rules, a community workspace which also has an event space and marketplace where you can purchase local artists’ works. Check out Black Table Arts, a community-minded arts cooperative that supports Black artists; their new location on Minnehaha Avenue includes a bookstore and performance spaces. And be sure to browse the contemporary literature by BIPOC authors at the new brick-and-mortar location of the beloved pop-up shop Black Garnet Books.

Different bowls to try at Soul Bowl in minneapolis

Soul Bowl in Minneapolis / John Yuccas, The Culinary Portfolio (@theculinaryportfolio)

Feed your soul 

You could spend an entire month eating your way through the diverse offerings of Black-owned Twin Cities restaurants and still find more to savor afterwards. The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin is among the Black legends on the walls of the savory soul food eatery Mama Sheila’s, whose namesake (“Mama” Sheila Brathwaite) also has her portrait adorning the walls. Leave your inhibitions at the door and go for the all-you-can-eat buffet or try a heaping serving of jerk chicken and other soul food standards at Angelea’s Soul Food Kitchen, a family-run operation inspired by the family matriarch, Angelea Rogers, who passed away in 2017.

For a whole new take on soul food, check out Soul Bowl in Graze Food Hall, where diners can customize their bowls with reinvented classic flavors. For adventurous palates, Trio Plant-Based in Minneapolis offers plant-based offerings like a “BBQ jackfruit” wrap filled with southern coleslaw, pepper jack cheese and cilantro aioli.

Chefs and co-owners Mateo Mackbee and Erin Lucas of the restaurant Krewe and Flour and Flower bakery in St. Joseph, MN

Chefs and co-owners Mateo Mackbee and Erin Lucas of the restaurant Krewe and Flour and Flower bakery in St. Joseph, MN / Katie Cannon Photography

For some true Jamaican heat, head to Pimento Jamaican Kitchen for a jerk chicken sandwich on a milk bun. You’ll not only be savoring some of the best Jamaican food in town — founded on the principles of seasonal, local and natural — you'll also be supporting a community-minded local business. As you dig into its authentic cuisine, consider making a donation to its nonprofit, Pimento Relief Service, a hub which they explain “is actively rebuilding and reimagining a world where a Black economy flourishes, reparations and healing are a community priority and Black individuals are protected and represented in our political system.” 

Venture further afield and keep the culinary tour going. At Krewe in downtown St. Joseph, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the Big Easy with the flavors that make up the melting pot of New Orleans, from Creole and Cajun to Italian, Irish and Vietnamese. They’re all proudly on display at this local favorite, where fresh, seasonal ingredients dictate the offerings. You can also pick up mouthwatering bread, pies, pastries and other treats at the onsite bakery Flour and Flower, co-owned by the same husband-and-wife team behind the restaurant. 

Joseph Phillips (and sons), the proprietor of Jersey Jo’s

Joseph Phillips (and sons), the proprietor of Jersey Jo’s

For a taste of authentic East African cuisine, head to Willmar. There you’ll find two standout Somali restaurants, Somali Star and Faafan Restaurant, where “healthy, diversity, and tasty” deliciously come together. Rochester also has its share of East African spots. It's also home to Francisco’s, a standout Jamaican-owned, family-run restaurant serving Jamaican and Cuban food, and Jersey Jo’s, another family-run eatery serving cheesesteaks and other American classics.

If you need a way to get to all of these authentic gastronomical experiences, let Whitehorn Reliable Shuttle Service give you a ride so you can enjoy your meals knowing that what makes your trip feel good and fills your belly well is also great for the communities you visit.