Black-owned businesses take over Downtown Pittsburgh for holiday season

Part 2 of ‘The Black Market’ occurs Dec. 4-6

by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer

Fourteen-year-old Michael Woodson Jr. might be the only youngster in Pittsburgh who blended his love for playing sports, playing video games and wanting to make people’s homes smell good into a business venture that benefits him and his entire family.

At age 9, Michael Woodson Jr. told his mother, Anita Jones, that they should start a business selling candles to help pay for the local sports he played, along with his two younger, athletic brothers, DaShaun and Donnell.

Jones and her three sons soon began selling custom-made candles in the Hill District, Homewood, the August Wilson African American Cultural Center, and dozens of indoor and outdoor events where vendors were found. When it came to finalizing on a name for their small business, Michael Woodson Jr. thought of his username on his PlayStation video game system—Quicc06.

“Quicc Candles” (pronounced “quick candles”) became the name of their business, and, in Michael Woodson Jr.’s words to the New Pittsburgh Courier, Nov. 27, “we’re poppin’ online, we’re poppin’ at the vending events, we’re poppin’ even though we’re on this quarantine…we’re still trying to make everybody’s houses smell better, and life’s been better than ever.”

Michael, DaShaun, Donnell, and their No. 1 motivator, their mother, Anita Jones, were among the 30 Black-owned small businesses that were selling their products during “The Black Market: Holiday Edition,” an event at 623 Smithfield St., Downtown, Nov. 27-29. It was a collaborative by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and Shayla Hawkins Events to push people to shop at Black-owned businesses in Pittsburgh. If you missed the first three-day event, there will be a second “Black Market: Holiday Edition” this weekend, Dec. 4-6, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the same location. There will be upwards of 40 Black businesses inside the spacious facility that sits just across from the Carnegie Library, Downtown, and next to the P1 “East Busway All Stops” Port Authority bus stop on Smithfield, awaiting your patronage. It’s surely the largest collection of Black businesses in one location in this region for the 2020 holiday season.

At the Quicc Candles table from Nov. 27-29, a customer was able to find the white, scented candles with inspirational messages tattooed on them—“Addicted To Peace,” “I Can, I Will,” “I Am Enough,” “If Yesterday Was Heavy, Put It Down,” and others.

“This teaches them interpersonal skills, communicating with people, looking in (customers’) eyes, managing money, advertising, marketing, everything that they could do in business,” Jones said of her sons. “They have the entrepreneurial spirit, they like getting out, they like talking to people and they like their products.”

Chatham University graduate students Samantha Parke and Jasmine Kamole were among the estimated 450 people who made purchases at “The Black Market” this past weekend. Along with their friend, Olivia Williams, who visited Pittsburgh for the Thanksgiving Holiday, Parke enjoyed chocolate-covered pretzels from S & S Chocolatz, owned by Stacey S., while Kamole purchased a purse from Leisa Washington of Lady Di’s Treasures.

Parke, who’s originally from Atlanta, told the Courier it was “uplifting” to see so many Black businesses under one roof in the heart of Pittsburgh.

Lady Di’s Treasures was one of the more popular attractions at “The Black Market” from Nov. 27-29, with Washington’s colorful array of purses, jewelry and shoes on display. Black women like Braddock resident TeQuia Williams bought a purse that she said could be worn with a vast variety of outfits.

“What girl doesn’t like purses and jewelry and heels?” Washington said of her business that’s been in existence for two years. Running the business “is not as easy as it looks,” she told the Courier, “but if this is the stuff that you enjoy, it’s more fun than doing your 9-to-5 (job).”

Fredericka Greenwood can attest to that. Her day job is with the City of Pittsburgh. But, “I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” she told the Courier. “I think it’s in my blood to be my own boss.”

Greenwood owns Happy Sac 412, which sells cannabis paraphernalia. She was a vendor at “The Black Market” this past weekend. Greenwood said the entrepreneurial bug bit her as a middle school student at the old Sterrett Classical Academy in Homewood in the ‘90s. She was a “Y-Teen” back then, referring to the national program the YWCA has for boosting leadership skills in young women. “One summer I was in charge of my peers; that was difficult, because they were my friends and I had to tell them what to do,” Greenwood recalled. “We came Downtown to the Y and we made bracelets and we were told to sell them.”

She’s had the entrepreneurial spirit ever since.

The spotlight on Black businesses in the U.S. has been brighter than ever. In the past seven months, the nation has taken measurable strides to eliminate racial injustices, though the fight is far from over. The death of George Floyd, a Black man, by a White Minneapolis police officer in May (and captured on video) was the tipping point. A flurry of peaceful and not-so-peaceful protests emerged from Floyd’s catastrophic death. The “Black Lives Matter” movement soon found itself backed by professional athletes, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and leaders of other nations. Statues of once-heralded national figures were torn down in states like Ohio, Virginia and Mississippi, if they had ties to racial injustices. And as the holiday season is in full swing, Black businesses are at the forefront. Across the nation, websites like, and have emerged as the premier places to find and support Black-owned businesses. In Pittsburgh, Khamil Scantling started a website,, to house a one-stop-shop to find Black-owned businesses in the region.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic also has caused more than 440,000 Black businesses nationwide to close, according to research from the University of California at Santa Cruz, reported by CBS News. That’s more than 40 percent of the estimated one million Black businesses across the country.

Hawkins, a seasoned event planner who is African American, held a similar “Black Market” event in June, which caught the eye of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. As the local businesses list was being finalized for the annual Peoples Gas Holiday Market, which takes place in Market Square and other areas Downtown from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership provided the space for Hawkins and her team to get more than 50 total Black businesses Downtown for the holidays.

It has given the Black businesses a chance to reach a wider, ethnically diverse audience in a location that’s easy to access.

Masks are required to enter “The Black Market: Holiday Edition” at 623 Smithfield St. this Friday-Sunday (Dec. 4-6) from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and temperatures will be checked on each customer prior to entering the facility. There is no cost to enter.

Event co-planner Jackie Clarke told the Courier that, just like this past weekend, there will be something for everyone at this weekend’s “Black Market.” LaShesia Holliday will bring her business, Naptural Beauty Supply, to the event, as will artist Janel Young (JY Originals), Bryan Glover (Hood Echelon Brand Clothing), Tasha Martin (Sobella House of Fashion), Brandy Gant (Mommy’s B.r.a.n.d.), Erin Johnson (pretti DOPE), Tuasheena Mollett (Jewelry by Lil Bit), and many others.

During the first “Black Market: Holiday Edition” from Nov. 27-29, the Courier witnessed customers getting personalized Christmas ornaments from Shatara Mar, owner of Raine Creations. Customers also bought ornaments that signified a baby’s first Christmas, as well as ornaments that referenced the COVID-19 pandemic.

Running a business is “exciting, it’s my dream,” Mar said. “I feel powerful, strong, especially setting an example for my children, showing them that we matter, we can do this.”

MICHAEL WOODSON JR., DASHAUN WOODSON AND DONNELL WOODSON are the forces behind Quicc Candles, one of the many local Black-owned businesses that are being featured in Downtown Pittsburgh as part of “The Black Market: Holiday Edition.” Roughly 30 Black businesses were featured at 623 Smithfield St. from Nov. 27-29, and nearly 40 Black businesses will be featured at the same location from Dec. 4-6. (Photos by Rob Taylor Jr.)

CHATHAM UNIVERSITY GRADUATE STUDENT JASMINE KAMOLE, left, is shown one of the many fashionable purses being sold by Leisa Washington, right, of Lady Di’s Treasures. Lady Di’s Treasures was featured at “The Black Market” from Nov. 27-29.

MIKO DEHONIESTO is the owner of Tonic & Sage, which strives to mix holistic whole body care with creativity and fun.

DARRIN MILLINER, originally from Beaver County, is the owner of Social Living. He had a vendor table at “The Black Market,” Nov. 27-29.

SISTERS JACKIE AND MONIQUE CLARKE, who helped plan the event for Black-owned businesses to be featured in Downtown Pittsburgh during the holidays. (Photos by Rob Taylor Jr.)

SHATARA MAR, right, owner of Raine Creations, which makes custom Christmas ornaments. Also pictured is Mar’s sister, Tomeko Shugars.

“CUSTOMERS AT “THE BLACK MARKET”—Jasmine Kamole, Samantha Parke, Olivia Williams.

FREDERICKA GREENWOOD, left, owner of Happy Sac 412, speaks with a customer.

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