VANCOUVER (CityNews) — Amid all the concrete and skyscrapers in Vancouver’s downtown core is an opportunity to enjoy crafting, clothing and more. Ride a couple escalators down at the Bentall Centre, take a few turns, and you’ll find a pop-up market that explores the richness of African culture.
Nerissa Allen is the President of the Black Business Association of B.C. She says the emptying out of downtown due to the pandemic meant a lot of space was going unused.
“What I was hearing from business associations downtown, and from the City of Vancouver, is that there are open spaces. There are buildings that are not being used right now, because most of the employees are not downtown, businesses have vacated, unfortunately businesses have closed,” she explains.
“We found a company that was willing to work with us.”
Allen says the space will be occupied for nine weeks, and five Black-owned businesses will showcase their goods on a rotating basis.
“Because a lot of our businesses in the Black community are sole proprietors, they missed out on a lot of funding that came out through the province, as well as federally, so they’ve been trying to find ways to keep up with their peers, and come out of this pandemic strong, and still being able to be able to compete, not fold and not close.”
On @CityNewsVAN: the pandemic has been tough on businesses but a group is trying to change that. How the Black Business Association of B.C. is giving Black entrepreneurs the chance to shine w/a pop-up market at Bentall Centre. I spoke w/the 1st occupant, Hogan's Alley Clothing. pic.twitter.com/u1ZY8IEIAX
— Ria Renouf (@riarenouf) June 16, 2021
The market is kicking off by featuring Vancouver-based Hogan’s Alley Clothing. Their signature creations are colourful bomber jackets. The name has special meaning to owners Douma and Fiyako.
“We educated ourselves more about the neighbourhood, and we felt like this is a story that we wanted to tell, so that’s the reason why we picked the name,” Douma explains.
Hogan’s Alley was historically home to Vancouver’s Black population. The alley in Strathcona ran between Union and Prior Streets from about Main Street to Jackson Avenue. It was demolished in order to make room for the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, displacing residents and disrupting the vibrant community.
Douma and Fiyako say their clothing is a fusion of African culture and Western style.
“We source all our fabric from West Africa, so it varies from Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, or even Senegal. All the jackets are actually made in Vancouver. That’s really important to us,” Douma says.
The result is a collection of brightly coloured and patterned coats.
“It’s bold, but it’s only for the person who has the bold spirit,” Fiyako says.
While there will be five businesses featured this time around, Allen says she’s already excited for the group’s next pop-up.
“It is the first time it’s happening, we hope it’s not the last. won’t be the last. This is just a taste of what we have to offer.”
You can check out the pop-up market at Bentall Centre until August 13.