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Warehouse fire destroys Black-owned business, how they are moving forward

Play Pits All Natural Deodorant brand lost all of its inventory in the warehouse fire on Sept. 13.

SOUTH FULTON, Ga. — On the morning of Sept. 13, a large fire in South Fulton destroyed the warehouse storing Atlanta Custom Iron Works along with five other businesses at the location. 

Play Pits All Natural Deodorant brand was one of those businesses. 

That morning, founder and CEO of Play Pits, Chantel Powell received a devastating phone call letting her know the years of work she put into building her brand was destroyed.

“I mean, we lost everything. This was a total loss for us,” Powell told 11Alive. “While the other businesses on the outside of us, they were able to go in and recover things that they wanted, but because I was right next to the fire, we are experiencing the total loss.”

3:30am, September 13, 2022… Since we started this Play Pits journey we have documented everything, almost 5 years of footage of our highs and lows. I think this moment is the lowest…when Mr.P pulled out the phone and put it on me… I was irritated because I had NO words 🙄…but last night I look at these videos and was thankful he did. This was my raw reaction… all I could see was everything that we was losing in this moment but thankful he reminded me what type of God we serve and in the midst of it all… God did. *Thank you to everyone that has called, texted, emailed, DMed, posted, etc. I’m literally still figuring it all out and working on ways that y’all can support us during this time. We will have a update tomorrow. Thank you!

Posted by Play Pits on Thursday, September 15, 2022

In 2017, Powell started Play Pits in her home kitchen. Her son, Kam, was six years old at the time when she remembers him coming home from football practice smelling “like a man." 

Unable to find any natural deodorant products in stores, Powell decided to make her own – and Kam loved it.

He encouraged his mother to make the product for all of his friends and teammates, but with a full-time job as an Executive Assistant for the Black Entertainment Network, Powell did not think she had the time, the materials or the bandwidth to take on such a loaded project. 

Little did she know, it took only nine months to get up and running and by 2018, she officially launched her brand for a loyal client base Powell now calls her "Underarmie."

By 2020, she made her first big move and relocated her business from her kitchen stove into its first headquarter at the South Fulton warehouse.

“That location was more than just a warehouse to us, it was a milestone in a family business that nobody in my family has ever been able to do, and I also think a milestone to my customers because they remember when we were making it in our kitchen,” Powell said.

The move brought a boom in business, as she expanded her clientele across the country, and in March of this year, Play Pits even announced their brand in over 300 U.S. Target stores. 

Credit: Play Pits
Play Pits All Natural Deodorant

However, now the fire has forced Play Pits to temporarily shut its doors and halt production while Powell focuses on rebuilding her brand into something even better than it was before. 

“Naturally, I kind of was like, Why God? Like why? And instantly it hit my spirit that this is a part of your story. This is just another part of your story,” she said. “This is the opportunity for me to show my kids that when bad things happen and when you're down, you don't have to stay down – and so I'm moving forward every day.”

During this time, she is asking the Underarmie for help as Play Pits starts their Recovery Initiative. This plan has three points where the community can help make an impact on their reconstruction progress. 

The first is by donating. Powell explained that donations made to the initiative will go to finding a new warehouse space and materials so they can start moving towards production once again. 

The Underarmie can also help by following Play Pits on all social media to stay up to date on all announcements they may have in the near future. 

Lastly, Play Pits is a finalist for the Kapitus Building Resilient Business Contest, where they have the chance to win $100,000. The prize winner is chosen by popular vote, so Powell is asking the Underarmie to come out and choose Play Pits as their favorite start-up.

She wants to remind the community this is just a setback for the brand and not the end. She told 11Alive that even though they have faced challenges, she and the Play Pits team are on their way to restoring the brand that so many people have come to love. 

“I know that I can't stop," she said. "There's too many people that are relying on what we produce, too many families, too many children, parents, and generations of a family that is relying on our product, and so I'm very knowledgeable of that."

While Play Pits is currently not taking any new online orders, Underarmie can still find its products on Target shelves in stores and on the Target website.

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