Black-owned businesses have traditionally lacked vital support to survive, thrive and expand. Angel Gregorio is quite familiar with these challenges as an entrepreneur, inspiring her to take steps to amplify black businesses in her own small way.
In this regard, she recently acquired a $1M property to open Black and Forth, a strip mall for Black women-owned businesses in Washington D.C.
“It was just this catchy, cool name that I created for how I describe my process of going back-and-forth with Black business owners,” Gregorio told DCist. “And now it is the name of a shopping center — a strip mall — that I own in D.C. So I feel good about that and I’m grateful to be in the space.”
Dcist reports that the 7,500 square foot will accommodate four other Black-owned salon businesses in the coming weeks. At a soft launch, Gregorio noted, “we have a lot of conversation about affordable housing, but we don’t talk enough about making business space affordable for Black women. And so since nobody’s talking about it, I’m just going to do it and let people talk about it.”
Gregorio acquired the million-dollar property with the help of DC government dollars. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said that she hopes to increase the share of minority-owned businesses to 33% by 2028. Gregorio is helping to make that possible. D.C.’s Commercial Property Acquisition Fund offers grants to eligible businesses to assist them to acquire commercial property. Gregorio was the fund’s first applicant.
Gregorio said she wants her business to be a model for what economic empowerment looks like, as well as freedom. Her hope is that there would be more than one Black woman-owned strip mall in D.C.
Gregorio, a Howard University alum and a former school principal, is also known for her specialty spice shop called the Spice Suite where she provides special spice blends to inspire chefs and home cooks, her website says.