MOA’s temporary ‘Community Commons’ aids local small businesses

Chris Juhn/MSR News Proprietors of the “Community Commons” businesses at the Mall of America

The Mall of America has opened a 5,000-square-foot space it is calling “Community Commons as a rent-free home to 17 small businesses owned primarily by proprietors of color. Community Commons is located on Level Two on the west side of the Mall.

“Mall of America joins the efforts to help rebuild the hearts, minds, and livelihoods of our diverse retail community,” said Jill Renslow, executive VP of business development and marketing at MOA. “We are proud to welcome these businesses to Mall of America where guests will be introduced to an even greater slice of what our retail community has to offer beyond the doors of Mall of America.”

The Mall of America’s idea was to invite into the Mall space 17 small businesses that were adversely affected by COVID-19 and/or civil unrest as the result of the police killing of George Floyd last Memorial Day and thereby introduce them to the broader community. Most of the small businesses were online with the exception of Urban 29, llakta and Herbal Alcehmy.

Photo by Chris Juhn Dave Wanpue of 4 the Love

Urban 29 was located on the corner of Lake and Chicago avenues in South Minneapolis, and llakta and Herbal Alcehmy were located in the Global Market. Captain Rebel was and is still located in Uptown Minneapolis.

“I like the concept. I think it’s a great idea and a great opportunity,” said Joyce Sanders, owner of Urban 29, whose former Lake Street clothing store was burned down during the riots following the death of Floyd.

“I miss my old location because it was mine and I had a bit more control over the presentation, but I am grateful to be at the Mall,” explained Sanders. “Hopefully I can stay or get my own space in the Mall—that has been one of my goals. I am hoping people shop with me, because at Urban 29 we have our own exclusive brand. Many of the items I sell are not in the Twin Cities, and most of what I sell is high quality yet trendy men and women’s clothing.

Chris Juhn/MSR News Joyce Sanders of Urban 29

” The success of this experiment and project depends on the level of exposure to People of Color and whether they come out and support us by spending money with us,” said Sanders.

Juxtaposition Arts, a Minneapolis Northside art design center, gallery and studio, provided much of the artwork for the Commons. Community Commons opened October 1 and will remain open through the spring of 2021. The list of proprietors includes:

4 The Love

Art Piece Soul Gallery & Studio, LLC

Belle & Virtue Collection

Butters by Jay

Candy Colors LLC

Captain Rebel

DAUREN Worldwide

Ebony Gifts

Fabulous Diva Boutique

Herbal Alchemy

Heritage Tea & Beverages

La Michoacana Purepecha