How to Support Black-Owned Businesses in Minnesota
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When we asked Duluth resident Dudley Edmonson to share his favorite trails for hiking in Minnesota, the activist/photographer/author was also eager to discuss the many Black-owned businesses he loves. Here are some of his top spots, from groundbreaking theaters to revelatory restaurants....
GEAR UP FOR THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Kit up from the Roseville-based online shop Gear Bags Plus whether you're strolling through one of Minnesota's many green spaces — Minneapolis often boasts about having a park every six blocks or so — or hitting nearby hiking trails.Owner Reckie James specializes in high-quality sports bags fit for any outing, from gear bags to hiking backpacks.
“The Indigo Bunting is my favorite bird there," he says. "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.”
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.
New Rules is a community workspace in North Minneapolis 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 the local scene through performance spaces and a bookstore.
Other recommended reading can be found at Black Garnet Books, a St. Paul store that specializes in contemporary literature and non-fiction by such BIPOC authors as Zadie Smith, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, and Saara El-Arifi. Staff picks often revolve around a specific topic, too; for instance, January's "Books for Hibernation" included a wide range of insightful self-care books and Kevin Wilson's meditation on chai tea.
FEED YOUR SOUL
Aretha Franklin is among the many Black legends on the walls of the savory soul food eatery Mama Sheila’s House of Soul. Leave your inhibitions at the door and go for the all-you-can-eat buffet or try a heaping serving of jerk chicken at Angelea’s Soul Food Kitchen, a family-run operation inspired by 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. Another fast casual favorite is Afro Deli, where you can order gyro-stuffed chapati wraps or a thinly sliced Somali steak sandwich.
Vegetarians can venture to Trio Plant-Based in Minneapolis for plant-based offerings like a “BBQ jackfruit” wrap filled with southern coleslaw, pepper jack cheese and cilantro aioli.
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 — centered on seasonal and natural ingredients — but you'll also be supporting a local business that pours time and energy into its own nationality recognized non-profit (Pimento Relief Services).
Venture further afield to 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. You can also pick up mouthwatering bread, pies, pastries and other treats at the onsite bakery Flour and Flower, which is run by Krewe co-owner Erin Lucas.
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 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.
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