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Business spotlight: 3 Black-owned businesses in Bloomington



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PopKorn Kernels With a Twist is located at 122 S. College Avenue in Bloomington. The black-owned business sells gourmet popcorn. Alex Deryn

If you’re looking to support more local businesses in Bloomington amid the coronavirus, nationwide protests after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police or in general, the IDS put together a list of Black-owned businesses in Bloomington and here are in-depth looks at three of them.

Angela’s Ebony Hair Designs and Barber Shop

The salon and barber shop on 534 S. College Ave. has been in business for 26 years. The salon used to only do Black hair but has now expanded to doing all types of hair. 

“I wanted to make sure that whoever walked in the door, that we could do their hair, no matter who they were and the type of hair that they have,” owner Angela Carter said. 

Carter began her business as a partnership with another hair stylist she worked with. Originally, the pair would rent booths in hair salons in town but Carter said their mass of college student clientele and their process of doing hair was found to be disruptive in other salons. 

“We'd be hanging out and chit chatting. We might even be doing hair to about one or two or three o'clock in the morning,” Carter said. “It didn't flow with their business. We were overpowering to them.”

Carter and her partner eventually began their own business called Ebony Hair Design. Three years later, Carter said her partner moved to Indianapolis and she took over the business becoming Angela’s Ebony Hair Designs and Barber Shop.

Within the past five years, Carter said she made a few changes to boost her business, such as doing all types of hair and moving locations. Since the reopening due to the pandemic closure, Carter said the salon is doing well. She said, during the business' closed period, there were people checking up on her business hoping they would still remain open.

The salon and barber shop is taking appointments only right now. All clients are asked to use hand sanitizer upon entry, have their temperature taken, wear a mask and not bring extra guests.

Popkorn Kernels with a Twist

The popcorn business, located on 122 S. College Ave., is known for its high quality, gourmet popcorn and wide range of flavors from basic caramel to buffalo cheddar to cookies and cream. 

Inspired by her father’s and grandfather’s entrepreneurship, owner Dr. Virginia Githiri started her business originally in 2007 but lacked the resources to move Popkorn off the ground. While also being an IU School of Public Health lecturer, she restarted the company in 2016. She said she wanted to give the business another chance. 

“It sounds crazy, but I just love popcorn,” Githiri said.

Githiri said she began her business because of her own love of popcorn and after she saw a lack of a gourmet popcorn company in Bloomington. She said she only releases popcorn she deems to be of the highest quality and is meticulous about using real ingredients and packaging that keeps the product fresh.

“I don’t like boring food,” Githiri said. “I won’t create boring food."

Githiri said she has created over 50 flavors with about 30 currently available. She said her storefront holds about 40% of her flavor offerings but customers can order other flavors online. She said she recommends people order online by Tuesday of each week to receive your order by the weekend.

Githiri said she has received a lot of support from the Bloomington community but mentioned being a minority business owner can be difficult. She said minority owners typically don’t see some of the same opportunities that others may have and they have to do a lot of self promotion.

Since the nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd began over two weeks ago, Githiri said there has been a significant increase in sales when one of her friends posted her business in a Facebook group called Bloomington foodies. She said the response has blown her away and she is now receiving orders from around the country.

“There is a lot of love surrounding the fact that I am a minority business owner,” Githiri said. “That means a lot because it says we see you.”

Popkorn Kernels with a Twist is currently open Friday and Saturday each week from 12 to 4 p.m. Githiri said she is looking to be open more in July.

Cry Babies Electric Tattooin

The tattoo studio owner Terin J.D. said he created the relaxed business, located at 116 S. Grant St., to be a space for marginalized communities, including people of color, the LGBTQ+ community and women, to receive tattoos.

The studio is decorated to match the tone J.D. wants to set. It is filled with memories of his childhood and art depicting Black culture with music by Black artists playing, he said. 

“This studio has been really good at getting people in Bloomington to see for the first time in their life what is Black culture as a way that a Black person sees it,” J.D. said.

Tattooing is a predominantly white-dominated field and J.D. said he started his business after he experienced racism working elsewhere. He said he wanted to create a space where he and others could feel comfortable both tattooing and receiving tattoo. 

J.D. also said Bloomington didn’t have a place that can specifically tattoo brown skin and that many times people would have to drive to Indianapolis.

“It's been popular, but it's only been popular with a small community,” J.D. said. “That's actually been the best part of this studio is just that a lot of people don't know about it.”

The shop is currently open for appointments only.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misnamed Dr. Virginia Githiri as Angela Carter twice. The IDS regrets this error.

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