ATLANTA — Editor's note: The video above is an 11Alive special featuring other black-owned businesses around Georgia
Throughout the month of February, the 11Alive team sought out metro Atlanta Black-owned businesses to share their stories. From gyms to restaurants to an automated grocery store, it's easy to shop Black in metro Atlanta.
A Google map listing all the businesses in this article can be found at the very end. Click here to read all our Black History content.
A married couple from different parts of the country needed to "solve a problem" after moving to metro Atlanta from their New York ballet careers. Nena Gilreath and her husband, Waverly Lucas II, birthed their own ballet company when they discovered the sky wasn't the limit for many Black ballet dancers who hoped to become stars.
"It was really revolutionary at that time because there was not a Black ballet company in the South that could provide that opportunity, " said Gilreath, founder of Ballethnic Dance Company.
Two friends banded together in 2019 to turn a hobby into a profitable side hustle called the "outcome of black excellence."
Owners Ani Whitmore and Kalin Darisaw graduated during the Great Recession, and after years in cooperate America, Kalin asked her friend to join in her venture of opening a studio.
"So we started working on the idea, and it just turned into this beautiful space and community that we have," Whitmore said. "You know, we have our instructors, we have each other, but then also like we are all growing individually."
The all-inclusive studio is open to all genders and is located at 3201 Atlanta Industrial Pkwy NW Suite 103 in Atlanta.
Three Black women took a chance on another, leading to the growth of a yoga studio in the Vinings neighborhood. Their passion grew into a decision to empower a community in 2017.
Miriam Frost, the founder of Stellar Power Yoga, first got her start in yoga when she visited a hot yoga studio. Her passion for the discipline grew, inspiring Frost to start a practice of her own. Her business is built on many pillars, some of them being dignity, respect and empowerment.
"I realized that I can utilize something that I'm good at, which is empowering people," Frost said. "I can do that using the practice of yoga, using the principles of yoga, which align with my beliefs and my moral compass."
At the Yoga Studio Atlanta, owner Ryan Kornegay wanted to create a safe space for everybody of all ages to enjoy. The yoga founder wanted a small studio to intentionally create an intimate, mindful space and experience for students to gather.
Some of her students have even told her that her space "helped people lay their burdens down."
Kornegay got her start in yoga from P90X, a workout video series. She then started practicing at local studios in Atlanta, where she found her passion for the practice of yoga but found some disparities existed for people of color in those spaces. That's when she opened up The Yoga Studio Atlanta on Howell Mill Road in 2021.
One Metro Atlanta business owner started her very own pole fitness studio after an interest in pole dance was sparked seven years ago.
Natasha Davis, owner of Twirl N Shape Fitness, wanted to create a space for women of all shapes, sizes and ages to be confident.
Pole fitness is an extended form of pole dancing that uses strength to guide people. The Lilburn owner claimed that even some personal trainers also have trouble getting on the pole.
"You have to be one with yourself. It's not your typical form, which we would think of gym and lifting weights, but our body is a weight," Davis said. "We do use that to also condition tone and become stronger."
Moving to America pushed one Atlanta-area teacher to open her fitness studio. Even after the pandemic forced them to close her physical doors, her community kept her open.
A decade ago, Claudia Fitzwater left her home country of Columbia to aid in America's teacher shortage. This landed her in Atlanta, where Fitzwater eventually opened ProjectBody ATL in Cabbagetown.
"A lot of my coworkers teach fitness classes at the studio," Fitzwater said, adding later that the school she works at, Drew Charter School, the studio and her home are just miles between each other.
Food and Drinks
The first metro Atlanta autonomous grocery store with robot delivery opened in 2022 during the pandemic, and a year later, the store is still blooming with business.
Owners of Nourish + Bloom Market, Jamie and Jilea Hemmings' son, Jabari, who's diagnosed with autism, inspired the idea that has grown into a community staple.
"We used to make prepared meals for kids that were sold in grocery stores all around the country, Jilea said. "But as I started to really get to know the community, I realized that what they needed more than anything was a market."
Three children in metro Atlanta teamed up to sell vegan popsicles after their mother dared them to find something outside of being on their phones and computers.
The black-family-owned company started in 2016, now has six pick-up locations and can be seen at many, if not most, Atlanta festivals.
"With Mokipops, we are building a legacy for our family to last for generations. This is not a trend. It's not a get-rich-quick opportunity," Amber Khan, the young owner's mother, said. "We're doing this for financial sustainability. But also, we are doing it to become business owners that have a voice at the table."
Their business which started at $2, has grown so much. Khan said the family is looking to get their own manufacturing space.
"And we just want to make that shift that this Black History Month means let's celebrate those of us that are doing things now," Khan said.
A new coffee shop is bringing a new experience to Decatur, mixing coffee, hip-hop and culture. Their new spot plans to have everything from an event center, tasting room, basketball court and lounge.
Dope Coffee's co-founder and chief product officer, Michelle Loyd, said it's a unique concept, bringing three important elements from their life. Behind the barista counter; they grind specialty East African and Central American coffee, while through the speakers, customers can sometimes hear music created by Dope Coffee's CEO and produced by Dope Coffee's CMO.
"We want you to have the time to make sure that you can experience not only what you're about to drink but where you're going," she said.
At this candy shop, it's all about family and serving traditional New Orleans sweets to the metro Atlanta area. The brother and sister duo said it all started with their father, who taught them the ropes of baking their favorite childhood desserts.
Channon "Chay" Powell worked with her dad at his shop at Sugar Dolls Candy Store in Metairie, Louisiana, where she learned each recipe of her favorite candies, from pralines to truffles. When the siblings' father passed away, they kept his legacy alive through candy making.
"We've been doing this for a very long time and to have my brother with me, and we work, and everybody knows us," Channon Powell said.
There are only a few Black-owned breweries in the country, and Atlanta is home to one, where the entrepreneurs previously serving rhymes are now selling hoppy drinks and hope.
It's officially been one year of business for Atlantucky Brewing owners and Nappy Roots rappers Skinny DeVille, whose real name is William Hughes and Scales, whose real name is Melvin Adams, Jr. Their business model is fused with Black history and the standard for modern-day customer service.
"George Washington Carver thinking, with Chick-fil-A service," Skinny said, describing the foundation of their business. "So we try to give you great service and be innovative with the beers we make and how we make them."
When Skinny and Scales' tour was canceled during COVID-19, the two decided to master brewing beer, a process started by African women in the 11th Century.
Hair, Nails and Skin Services
A 14-year-old boy grew a love for cutting hair on his mom's front porch in southwest Atlanta. A line grew in front of the house of boys eager to get their $5 haircut in front of the home on Beatie Avenue.
At 16, the Atlanta boy already had a job at a neighborhood barbershop. He would then graduate and become a licensed barber at the shy age of 18, working at a shop in Greenbriar Mall.
A couple of years later, Tony Roberts opened his first studio called the "Exclusive." In 1998, Tony's Barber Studio was born.
"One of the things I prided myself on over the years is not just being a typical barber shop, but having an atmosphere that was conducive for mothers and children and everybody," Roberts said.
A Birmingham native had hopes and dreams of becoming a background dancer for Beyoncé and traveling the world when she called Atlanta her home eight years ago.
After she experienced the dancing, her passion changed after realizing she wanted to make other women feel the way she did when she danced. Essence of She Day Spa was then born in 2020 at her current location on Caroline Street. Gladness created the business as a way for women to relax and lay out their burdens. She didn’t want women feeling defeated when their heads hit the spa pillows.
“It gives me more freedom. I love my clientele," Chenedra Gladness, owner of Essence of She Day Spa, said when speaking about her passion of becoming an esthetician. "It just made me so much more fulfilled knowing they needed what I was giving. It felt much more personable and appealing."
Other Goods and Services
The art gallery started with one man’s love of traveling and collecting art but has now become a part of Atlanta’s continuous story and legacy of fostering Black culture. Located downtown near Centennial Olympic Park, in the historic Castleberry Hill, partners Troy Taylor, Onaje Henderson and Omari J. Henderson invites the city to see, purchase and learn more about collecting art.
Through their Art Tasting events, the partners teach organizations, individuals, and anyone who asks about the importance of owning an original art piece.
“We have a responsibility to own a piece of our culture while we're here," Omari said. “We have to tell these stories, and we have to own a piece of it, because if we don't, then there are other people that are going to come in and purchase this work and own it, and there will be a pain to go and see our own culture."
Fresh out of law school and practicing real estate law, Bryce Durham decided to get into personal injury law after being pushed by a mentor.
The southwest Atlanta native said he didn’t start out with much money. That’s when he created Durham Law Group. The lawyer said it’s important for communities of color to understand the law and have access to resources.
“If you want a minority attorney, it's hard to locate one. It's important for us to help folks out because everyone can't afford attorneys in their communities or even know how to access one,” Durham said.
The law firm often helps those who have been involved in a car accident or might have gotten hurt on the job. Personal injury lawyers can help victims get justice and a necessary trial, the lawyer said.
“To be educated and to know someone basically has your back and is going to fight for you, I think people think I know people have told me they love just the ease they get after they meet with us and it's high energy,” Durham said.
For young Black lawyers who might be struggling, Durham stated that “education is the great equalizer” and encouraged all to keep going.
She is listed as one of the Best Doctors in America and has been credited with strengthening COVID-19 education and vaccine awareness in the Black community, especially among children and parents.
Most recently, she was recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's We Can Do This COVID-19 Public Education Campaign as a Health Care Hero for her unwavering and impactful work during the pandemic, particularly for Black communities.
“We wanted to really get out there and do something to make sure that our communities were getting educated messages about why they should go get vaccinated,” Brown said.
This event planning business was born in 2020 by Kinshasa Msola, who felt she had to do something to spark "joy" in other people's lives who might be hearing the same as they grow.
"I always find a silver lining in everything I go through. After going through that several times, it felt like the ancestors gave me this gift. I was given this personality for a reason. So why am I hiding it?," Msola questioned.
Msola offers her events in two categories Joyvents and Joyshops. Whether it's crafting workshops or fun social events, both were designed to improve mental wellness by creating joyful experiences.
"I am blessed to feel like my entire life is aligned with who I am and what I'm doing," Msola added.
From promoting historical Black figures to supporting Black entrepreneurship, vendors at the New Black Wall Street Market said the space is helping to close the minority income gap.
"We created a retail Mecca for the black business to operator, starting with art avenues that features over 135 different artists," said Lord Hester, a manager at the New Black Wall Street Market in Stonecrest.
The business, which opened two years ago, continues to thrive as an entertainment and retail destination to increase Black wealth and entrepreneurship.
"A lot of times people see this development, and they think it’s about real estate, but it’s really about growing and developing minority and woman-owned business," said Matthew Hampton, the organization's director.
This story is a part of a series highlighting local Black businesses and their embodiment of Black excellence in light of Black History Month. To view more stories, visit 11alive.com/blackhistory