With the historic inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama just hours away, small Black-owned and -operated businesses in the District of Columbia area are bustling, with many retailers and vendors having slapped Obama’s face or name on anything that might sell.
Among them are throngs of T-shirts, one-of-a-kind coins and commemorative plates; talking dolls, watches – even cakes and restaurant blue plate specials like the Obama egg breakfast at Florida Avenue Grill in northwest DC.
“We’ve been super busy over the past few days,” said an exasperated Imar Hudgins, cashier at the soul food grill that was established in 1944. “The inauguration has certainly been a boon for our business,” he said as a line of patrons waited anxiously for their orders at the front entrance.
The narrow dining room was also packed.
“We normally seat 47 people, but the way they’ve been coming and going all weekend has been phenomenal,” said Hudgins.
Not far away at Ben’s Chili Bowl at 12th and U streets, despite frigid temperatures, the line of hungry patrons stretched nearly half a block. If out-of-town spectators weren’t stopping in the middle of the street to take pictures of the world famous restaurant, they were sharing stories on why they had to come over.
“This is an inauguration that won’t be forgotten,” said Fannie Calloway, of Mississippi “and I wanted to spend my money at as many Black businesses as I could.”
At-Large Councilmember Kwame R. Brown, chairman of the Committee on Economic Development said that revenue will be a boost to local businesses.
“It’s going to be an honor to continue to have one of the largest celebrations in any inauguration in the history of the country during a time where the economy has slowed down, and mom and pop businesses in corridors throughout the city have experienced slow sales growth,” Brown said.
“When you start to put together an Inaugural parade, inaugural balls, inaugural events, there’s a lot of money that’s spent on that,” he continued. “I think he [Obama] made a conscious effort to move minority businesses and women-owned businesses. I think that it’s a clear sign of the duration of what we are going to see from this administration.”
According to marketing experts, enthusiasm for the inauguration — which promises to be the most profitable in recent memory — has transcended both racial and party lines, and the anticipation of heavy foot traffic in areas like downtown Silver Spring has only added to the appeal of businesses there.