In the early twentieth century, Parrish Street in Durham was a hub of African-American business activity that gained national recognition. The four-block district was known as “Black Wall Street,” and received praise from national leaders W. E. B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington.
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Urban renewal wiped out much of the black business community by the 1960s, but over time black-owned businesses have made a comeback thanks to savvy entrepreneurs. In 2016, Durham was recognized as the No. 4 city in America for black women to launch a thriving business by Black Enterprise, and start-up hub American Underground led the nation in entrepreneurial diversity.
Here are six black-owned businesses or institutions that have received critical acclaim. Check them out on your next trip to Durham.
As the nation’s first public, liberal arts college for African Americans, North Carolina Central University has a rich history among the African-American entrepreneurial community not only in Durham but in the entire country. Notable alumni include Maynard Jackson Jr., the first African-American mayor of Atlanta; André Leon Talley, contributing editor at Vogue magazine; and North Carolina Congressman George Kenneth “G.K.” Butterfield.
In the Press: NCCU was recognized by HBCU Digest as the top Historically Black College and University of 2016.
Travel Tip: Hop on a campus tour Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m., making sure to visit the NCCU Art Museum, which houses one of North Carolina’s leading collections of works by African-American artists.
Didn’t think it was possible to get fresh seafood this far from the coast? You haven’t visited Saltbox Seafood Joint. Classically trained Chef Ricky Moore has worked in restaurants in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, but in 2012 he gave it all up to open a walk-up seafood stand in Downtown Durham. Diners now line the street for Moore’s nationally-acclaimed softshell crabs, oysters, and of course, fried fish.
Travel Tip: The menu varies daily. You can find the day’s specials posted on Facebook, written on a chalkboard outside the downtown location, and inside the recently opened second location in Lakewood, Saltbox Seafood II.
Owned by Dorian Bolden, Beyú Caffé is part coffee shop, restaurant, bar, and jazz club. Coffee connoisseurs will love both the traditional coffee beverages as well as specialty drinks and coffee cocktails like the Oprah Mocha and Irish Coffee.
In the Press: Mental Floss recognized Beyú Caffé as the best coffee shop in North Carolina.
Travel Tip: Brunch fans will want to stay for Sunday brunch or the occasional late evening chat over coffee.
Owned by Daniel and Monica Edwards, Morehead Manor Bed and Breakfast opened to the public back in 1997 as a staple of African-American excellence in hospitality. Each of the four spacious guest rooms have a private bath, and the inn serves complimentary beverages, homemade desserts, and a full breakfast each morning.
In the Press: Morehead Manor was profiled by OneGlobe Citizen in 2016.
Travel Tip: The 8,000 square-foot, Colonial Revival-style home is within walking distance to downtown, and key landmarks like the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, DPAC, and Brightleaf Square.
Find your favorite comfort food pairing at the original Dame’s Chicken and Waffles, where crispy, Southern fried chicken meets fluffy and sweet European waffles. The golden waffles are served with their signature “shmears,” made of whipped sweet crème butters that are flavored with natural ingredients like Strawberry Crème, Maple Pecan, or Chocolate Hazelnut. Not a waffle fan? Dame’s also serves classic southern brunch dishes like shrimp and grits and blackened salmon.
In the Press: Eater recognized Dame's as one of Durham's 10 indispensible restaurants.
Travel Tip: There is often a line out the door (and Dame's is currently undergoing renovations in the Central Park district) but it is worth the wait when they reopen a bit later in 2019.
Mother-and-daughter team Margaret and Megan George founded The Zen Succulent in 2012 after several years of urban gardening. The modern terrarium and plant craft business is inspired by natural surroundings, a love for urban planting, and delight in color. Each terrarium is crafted by hand, featuring locally sourced natural and preserved plants and sea life, and the Georges hand-mix their own soil. The Zen Succulent retail shop is located in the heart of Downtown Durham on East Parrish street.
In the Press: In 2016, StyleBlueprint highlighted the plant shop and featured an interview with Megan, who has styled homes for HGTV.
Travel Tip: Get hands-on at the DIY terrarium bar where you can design your own mini garden, or take a workshop for a guided experience.
Both Nicole Oxendine and Jessica Burroughs allowed their passion and drive to plant them in the heart of Durham, devoting themselves to community engagement, teaching, and mentoring both in and out of the studio. Oxendine authors the dance curriculum for the Durham Public School system, has a Master’s in dance/movement therapy focused on adolescents with developmental disabilities, and was a principal dancer at Bellan Contemporary Dance Theater. Burroughs is a local Hillside Highs School alumna and studied Ballet at the American Dance Ensemble, as well as Modern & Jazz with Dallas Black Dance Theatre among others.
In the Press: In July 2017, WRAL covered Empower Dance Studio in a video, citing their body positivity and self-confidence enhancing programming for all.
Travel Tip: Check their website for free public workshops offered year-round.
Sabrina is all about sharing the love. This North Carolina Central University alumna brings signature creativity, style and organization to events, weddings and gatherings, committing herself to flawless execution.
In the Press: Her southwest Durham event company has been selected as a winner of Wedding Wires' Couple's Choice Award, as well as awards from The Knot, and Best of Durham distinctions.
Travel Tip: Planning an impromptu wedding or anniversary party? Call ahead for a consult to make plans to celebrate in Durham!
Read on to learn more about the history of black-led entrepreneurial endeavors in Durham.