By Scott Carlson
A year after first sponsoring the Black Business Is Beautiful Market at its pilot microbrewery and taproom site, The Lab has turned that monthly initiative over to a minority entrepreneurial group.
The Black Market, a Black-business market curator, is now independently overseeing the operation of the bazaar, which features the goods and services of Black vendors and other entrepreneurs who are people of color.
“The Black Business is Beautiful Market has been handed off to The Black Market,” said Lauren Bertrand, taproom general manager and marketing strategist at The Lab, 767 Eustis St. The event has grown from about 10 to 15 vendors at its debut to now featuring 40 to 50 vendors on the second Saturday of the month, she noted.
Seanie Sheppheard, co-owner of The Black Market, said her group started in 2021, dedicated to increasing the visibility of Black-owned businesses in Minnesota.
“After three events that some would say were successful—drawing, on average, about 600 to 800 people per event during the summer—we worked with The Lab to acquire the Black Business Is Beautiful Marketplace,” she noted.
Sheppheard noted, “Our goal is to present a fun, welcoming Black-centric space that everyone can enjoy, learn, connect and shop. Every market shows the beauty of our culture: the families, food, music, fun atmosphere, our history and arts, our youth and elders—the togetherness, hard work from our vendors and love. We want everyone to experience that while being intentional about not only buying Black but learning about services and products that come from our community.”
The Black Market “is a small, family-operated business that has been one of the most rewarding experiences we have ever had as entrepreneurs as well as community members in Minnesota,” Sheppheard said of The Black Market, which was founded by 4Seen Media and mnblacklist.com. The organization boasts a list of more than 200 vendors.
Besides appearing at The Lab, The Black Market has also staged pop-up events around the Twin Cities. The big part of each market is a display of goods from various vendors including food products, home goods, clothing, shoes and jewelry.
“We are continuing to grow our community organizations and services as well,” Sheppheard said. “We have had school districts, realty programs, housing and marketing experts and others that provide services to both community and businesses. Each market also hosts at least a half dozen food and beverage vendors that prepare delicious food onsite or have baked goods and other cottage food products.”
Meanwhile, on another note, The Lab is regaining momentum for its business following the disruption of the Covid pandemic over many months in 2020 and into much of 2021.
During its Covid shutdown period, The Lab produced hand sanitizer out of its pilot facility as a way to give back to the local community, Bertrand said. “We promoted to-go crowlers and powered through 2020 and then finally fully reopened our taproom doors in May 2021.
“We are still working to get back to the momentum we had after first opening our doors but have great hope and big plans for the future,” Bertrand said. “We have dreams of hosting beer gardens and small summer concert series in the summer of 2022.”
The Lab, founded by Janet Johanson and Matt Hall, in 2019 allows beverage makers to perform pilot runs of their products and to test the quality of their recipes. The Lab’s pilot brewing and lab services for neophyte brewers help refine recipes, test trial new ingredients, create commercial quality prototypes and gather anonymous customer feedback from The Lab taproom.
Scott Carlson is managing editor of the Bugle.