SBA hosts shopping tour ahead of Small Business Saturday

RACINE — Ahead of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the U.S. Small Business Administration is encouraging shoppers to support their local communities by shopping and dining at small businesses.

Held the day after Black Friday, Nov. 25 will mark the 14th annual Small Business Saturday.

During a shopping and dining tour Friday, members from SBA, the City of Racine and the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation highlighted several local businesses in the downtown and uptown areas of Racine.

Featured businesses included BePlush, Della Mar’ Chris Bakery, SheaBroJae’s, 2SwiftSuits, Divine Melanin Beauty Supply, Rooted, Esperanza Coffee Collective and Dragon Pit Barbecue.

According to Heather Lux, southeast regional director at WWBIC, many of the business owners received an SBA loan through WWBIC.

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The SBA has increased the number of loans granted in the region by 370% during the last two years, including a 70% increase to women-founded businesses, a 67% increase in loans to Black-owned businesses and an increase in loans of about a third to Hispanic-owned businesses, according to Geri Sanchez Aglipay, SBA Great Lakes regional administrator.

Eric Ness, SBA Wisconsin district director, highlighted the technical assistance WWBIC offers.

“Even if business owners say, ‘I know what I’m doing,’ there might be three or four things they don’t know,” he said. “It is great to have a resource where business owners can talk to somebody. They also host classes, so not only will you learn from the experts, but you can also learn from other people going into new business ventures as well.”

BePlush Collective

BePlush sells women’s fashion pieces. The store also houses Della Mar’ Chris Bakery, which sells sweet treats, and SheaBroJae’s, which sells body butters.

The tour kicked off at BePlush at 300 Main St., which also houses Della Mar’ Chris Bakery and SheaBroJae’s.

Yolanda Coleman, owner of BePlush, received 2023’s SBA Wisconsin Women in Business Champion award.

Eric Dogans of 2SwiftSuits with SBA officials

After some swift shopping, Geri Sanchez Aglipay, SBA Great Lakes regional administrator; Eric Dogans, owner of 2SwiftSuits; and Eric Ness, SBA Wisconsin district director, gather for a photo outside the shop.

Stop No. 2 was 2SwiftSuits, 411 Main St., which is owned by Eric Dogans, owner of 2SwiftSuits.

“It doesn’t make sense for (Racine) to have a population of about 70,000 people and for us not to have a quality men’s clothing store, he said. “That was the dream and the goal — to bring that here and to bring those dollars here.”

The mother and son duo behind Divine Melanin Beauty Supply

Pictured outside Divine Melanin Beauty Supply are Ebony Cunningham, owner, and her son Camarion Williams, who helps out at the shop.

The last stop in downtown was at Divine Melanin Beauty Supply, 422 Main St.

A woman-founded business, Divine Melanin Beauty Supply opened in February 2023.

RYDE Racine's electric bus

The small business tour was powered by RYDE Racine’s electric bus.

While the downtown portion of the tour took place on foot, attendees boarded RYDE Racine’s electric buses for the second half of the tour, commuting to uptown Racine and back.

While in uptown Racine, the tour stopped at Rooted, a plant store at 1505 Washington Ave.

Plants available at Rooted

Some of the many plants available at Rooted, a plant shop in Racine’s uptown neighborhood.

Rooted co-owners Kristina Campbell and Joanna Luebke set their roots in the uptown neighborhood of Racine in August 2021.

Three weeks ago, Campbell and Luebke moved from their original 1436 Washington Ave. location to 1505 Washington Ave., right across the street.

Drive-thru of Esperanza Coffee Collective

The drive-thru of Esperanza Coffee Collective on a sunny day.

For a quick pick-me-up, the tour group walked up to the drive-thru of Esperanza Coffee Collective. The shop is The Branch at 1501, at 1501 Washington Ave., an event space and commercial kitchen.

The shop is owned by Sergio Molina.

The coffee comes directly from their family’s coffee farms in Acatenango, Guatemala. The beans are roasted locally by Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company in Milwaukee.

Emerson Holliday, owner of Dragon Pit Barbecue, with SBA and WWBIC officials

From left to right are Eric Ness, SBA Wisconsin district director; Geri Sanchez Aglipay, SBA Great Lakes regional administrator; Emerson Holliday, owner of Dragon Pit Barbecue; and Heather Lux, southeast regional director at WWBIC.

The last stop on the tour was Dragon Pit Barbecue.

Emerson Holliday opened the restaurant in 2020, during the pandemic.

He was awarded the 2023 Greater Racine BBQ Champion.

Last year’s Small Business Saturday drove an estimated $17.9 billion based on projections from U.S. consumer-reported spending at independent retailers and restaurants on the day, according to a study conducted by American Express, the company that started Small Business Saturday in 2010.

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