Choosing to shop at a Black-owned business is an important way that individuals can show support to the Black community on-Island. India Rose, who spoke about her experience being of mixed-race in The Times Voices on Racism project, has taken her digital catalogue of Black-owned businesses and created a print edition for community members and tourists to have while exploring the Island. The Times spoke with Rose about the launch of the printed catalogue and her experience with creating this resource. This launch comes at the perfect time for tourists and islanders to celebrate Juneteenth by taking part in the first-ever Martha’s Vineyard Black Restaurants and Retail Week. During the week, Island residents and visitors are encouraged to patronize Black-owned businesses and share their experiences on social media.
After talking to many individuals who were printing the online list of businesses themselves, Rose decided to create a printed listing of her own.
“I created the digital platform in May 2019,” Rose said, “so the printing idea basically stemmed from people printing off the website itself. People could carry around the listings as opposed to always going back to the website.”
Individuals printing off the website created skewed pages and sometimes illegible sentences, so printing a catalogue would allow people to not only carry the book with them, but ensure they received correct and complete information.
Rose also explained her process of creating the online platform, which began with just a few businesses, but grew as more people reached out and requested specific services. Additionally, other Island business owners reached out in order to add themselves to the listing.
“A lot of traffic goes through the website, where people send an email inquiring about different industries,” she said. “I dealt with all of the businesses, and my friend Jessica Hall was the graphic designer who helped put everything together.”
She mentioned the positive reactions from participating businesses and community members, many of whom were not aware of the more than 50 Black-owned businesses on-Island. “Everyone was really excited about it, they welcomed the extensive list,” she said.
Before the creation of the print edition, the website listing saw consistent viewership, with almost 20,000 views every six months. From May 24 to June 22, however, the website has already seen almost 4,500 views for the month. Rose mentioned that this was due to the new print edition and increased social media marketing. “Until now, I really didn’t do as much on social media to promote the site,” she said.
Now that the edition is in print, many community members are requesting the booklet for events such as wedding favors and gift baskets, an unexpected way of distributing to tourists and Islanders.
“Having it in print brought about things that I wasn’t even expecting,” she said, “even other businesses on the Island have reached out and said, ‘Hey, we just want to have a few copies in the store for distribution.’”
Dr. Kenneth Brown, owner of Sarah Brown’s Oak Bluffs Comfort Foods, told The Times that having a physical copy is a plus for tourists.
“The book is a chance to give everyone an opportunity to look in one place and see all of the businesses that are on the Island,” he said. “I think there is an opportunity to geographically frequent these types of businesses now when tourists come to the Island.”
He also mentioned the strong community that has been developed through the creation of the catalogue. “Black businesses are being celebrated, being identified,” he said.
Chris Arcudi, co-owner of Biscuits in Oak Bluffs, also told the Times he is happy to be a part of this list after years of being on-Island.
“I’ve been on the Island 19 years, and a lot of Black businesses were displayed over the years,” he said, “but now there’s more businesses opening up, and I’m happy to be part of it.”