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Englewood, Chatham, Auburn Gresham

The Black Mall Expands To Larger Location on 79th Street

More than 50 black-owned businesses call The Black Mall home in Chatham.

Co-founders of The Black Mall Cassiopeia Uhuru and Dre Meekins want to continue investing in the greater Chatham community.
Lee Edwards/Block Club Chicago
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CHATHAM — The Black Mall is growing.

The project that aims to bring more customers to black-owned businesses by providing a one-stop retail shop is moving to a larger location on one of the South Side’s busiest commercial corridors.

Cassiopeia Uhuru, The Black Mall co-founder, said The Black Mall outgrew its first space at the BopBiz Center, 644 E. 79th St. It then moved into Boombox Chatham, 532 E. 79th St. But it would eventually outgrow that spot, too. 

Next stop: a larger storefront across the street at 533 E. 79th St. in Chatham. 

A grand opening celebration is scheduled for Nov. 1-3. The festivities will include a celebration for The Black Mall’s 7th anniversary on Nov. 1.

Uhuru said major promotions, raffles and giveaways will take place all weekend. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held Nov. 3.

Credit: Lee Edwards/Block Club Chicago
The Black Mall will celebrate seven years in business on Nov. 1.

RELATED: Want To Support Black-Owned Businesses? The Black Mall In Chatham Makes It Easy

The Black Mall’s latest move was serendipity. One day, while at Boombox Chatham, Uhuru saw the corner store was available across the street, she said. 

The building is home to nine commercial storefronts and 22 residential units. The spot they eventually leased also had 11 refrigerators, a walk-in freezer and a deli refrigeration unit, she said. Although she and fellow The Black Mall co-founder Dre Meekins thought the additional space was unnecessary, the duo moved forward on the space anyway.

“We didn’t think we would need all of that,” she said. “We looked at another space within this unit and it was much smaller and something was just not right about it so we revisited this space and was like we’ll keep the refrigerators off.

“And then food people started coming,” Uhuru said. 

The interior of the store is still a work in progress, said Meekins, who built several of the shelves. They moved into the storefront in the middle of June but did not open until July, while the shop was still undergoing renovations.  

“We are a functioning, operating store and it’s exciting to build it,” Meekins said.

Currently, The Black Mall houses 50 different vendors with some having multiple items in stock. National businesses have taken notice too, Uhuru said.

She said the impact of The Black Mall echoes back to where the community once was for some residents.

“We have a lot of elders come through and they say ‘this neighborhood used to be black owned and thriving and there used to be a businesses everywhere.’ And it feels good to know that we are a part of putting that back together,” Uhuru said.

Credit: Lee Edwards/Block Club Chicago
More than four dozen vendors have products inside The Black Mall’s 79th Street store.

“The thing is, no one is going to do it for us,” she said. “People say why don’t they do this and why don’t they do that. Who is they? And why should they? So we decided we’re going to do it with all of the people that want to help build, too.”

Uhuru and Meekins said there are opportunities for community investors in The Black Mall’s cooperative membership. For a $200 one-time payment to The Black Mall, a person can become a member with benefits like discounts on store product and the ability to run to be a part of The Black Mall board  — and even earn money if the stores are profitable.

The co-founders are in discussions to open up The Black Mall in other neighborhoods, including communities as far away as Austin, but right now they’re focused on growing the Chatham store. 

“We want to make it to a lot of spots in the city,” Meekins said. “We want to grow and become solid and stable in Chatham first, invigorate this micro-downtown and then move to others.”

The Black Mall is open from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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