During the month of February, our in-house photographer Jazmin, and I went to visit four different small businesses in our city.
Our project’s goal was to highlight the beauty of their business, and share them with our customers. Jazmin’s gift to them was her beautiful photography of each owner in their element. Jazmin told me, “I just want them to see themselves how I see them,” a meaningful sentiment said by someone whose craft is to recognize beauty behind a lens.
What started as a project to lift up Black-owned small businesses in Fort Worth, ended up being a tour of inspiration for me personally. So much of 2020 brought me down, and if we’ve chatted recently, you’ll know that I’m still processing through all of the pain and setback last year brought. But while visiting with these business owners, I felt encouraged, inspired, and impressed. They were smiling, laughing, dreaming, and they weren’t letting the world bring them down. I drew from them an incredible amount of strength and resilience every small business owner needs. I am still developing my own.
What rang true for all businesses that we visited is the realization of how precious they are for our city. The unsung heroes and propagators of our city’s growth. How gifted each one of them are.
No matter where you are, I hope you’ll find the special gems in your city and support them over large chains. What you’ll see is that through your support, you allow them to dream and build a better city for the both of you. How often do we get to be a part of something that great?
When I pulled into the driveway of Smokeaholics, a man in the car next to me started shaking his head at me while smiling. He didn’t know I was there to meet with the owners and was signaling that I had come too late and all of their food was already sold out.
Jazmin told me that this was normal for this restaurant. You have to know when to go and pray that you’re lucky enough to get a plate. I haven’t eaten meat since 2007, so I only knew of this establishment through people’s raving reviews.
The pitmaster and owner Derrick smokes all of the meat himself, and has been cooking since he was 12--helping his grandfather smoke meat. His wife runs the front of house and much of the kitchen duties. Daughters, nieces, aunts, sisters...the whole family was in on helping with the business, and you can feel their love spread throughout the restaurant. Customers dropping by while we were there were treated like friends and family. Even the local sheriff came by to check if Derrick had anything left for the day and was treated like family as well. His restaurant felt like a place of belonging.
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Davis Glass Cleaning Company
Jefferson is a smart entrepreneur. He took a skill and service that every business needs and turned that into his own business--glass cleaning. Honestly, I never knew that a glass and window cleaning business existed for small businesses like Gifted. I’ve seen glass cleaners on scaffolding for large corporations and skyscraper buildings, but I assumed that since my business was small, I’d just have to clean those windows myself.
His business is doing great, but as with any small business going through growth he seemed to be at a crossroads. How can he scale his business up? Can he afford employees and structure? When will he be able to step away from the physical work of glass cleaning and focus on ownership and his own hobbies—photography, traveling?
Really what I saw in him is the American dream. I don’t know his whole story, but Jefferson is smart, he’s handsome, he’s kind, and he’s hardworking. He found a way to carve out a corner for himself in this world. This is hard to do for any entrepreneur or person, but Jefferson does this with ease, and might I add, some swag (have you seen how he flips the squeegee in Jazmin’s video, oh and those Jordans tho). He is undeniably someone who you can’t help but want to support and see make it big in the world.
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Da Crab Trap
If you scroll through Da Crab Trap’s feed, you’ll be able to spot our shop’s dear twins, Jazmin and Jeanette, in some of the earliest photos on Daisey and Terrence’s feed. Jazmin and Jeanette were early supporters of Da Crab Trap and introduced this delicious business to the rest of our team.
Daisey and Terrance left their hometown of Georgia to start a restaurant in Fort Worth, after visiting for a weekend and falling in love with the city. They started small through Facebook Marketplace, and pretty quickly, their customers became repeat customers who started spreading the word about their food. Eventually they were able to buy out a space that was previously a Cici’s restaurant, and this is where they operate today.
Beyond mouth-watering seafood, what you’ll experience while enjoying Daisey and Terrance’s food is love. When you ask Daisey what her secret ingredient is, she’ll say the same. As we watched Daisey and Terrence get ready for service for the day, we couldn’t help but smile the whole time. Terrance makes sure the vibe is just right and goes behind his DJ booth to get some beats poppin, and Daisey goes straight to making sure the chairs are set up just right and the kitchen is in order.
What I love the most about Daisey and Terrence is their passion. When you visit with them, you can see how much they love what they do. They’re smiling when they’re cooking crab. They’re smiling when they’re dousing their dishes with their special sauce. They’re smiling when they ring you up at the register. You can see that their business is their joy. I couldn’t help but be a bit envious. So much of my experience has left me with more furrowed brows and sleepless nights than I care to mention. But a key takeaway for me was to protect my joy. Who knew their seafood would really end up being food for my soul.
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The Dock Bookshop
The first time I walked into The Dock Bookshop, I felt like I walked into a hole-in-the-wall paradise for anyone who loves to read about Black and African culture and history--or for anyone who loves to read. Organized much like any other book store, by genre, I found the shop’s intimate curation to be both diverse in genre and product assortment.
Not only can you find new fiction novels such as “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett and non-fiction bestsellers such as “How To Be An Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi, but you can also find a large array of children’s books with Black main characters, books on religion, books on African-American history, and even traditional African dresses.
What particularly drew my attention was the famous people throughout history, whose laminated photos were hanging from the ceiling watching over the shop. Billie Holiday, Tupac Shakur, Mohammad Ali, Kobe Bryant...and so many more Greats. You feel the weight of their accomplishments and wonder what their untold stories are, what history forgot to tell us.
“Maybe the books will tell us,” I told myself, as I started to create my own stack of books to take home.
The Dock Bookshop is truly what I consider a gem and resource to our city that we need to protect. I hope the next time you think about buying a book, you’ll consider giving The Dock Bookshop a visit.
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