Water Leaks Dampen Morale at Market for Minority Businesses

February 24, 2022

STONECREST, Ga. (AP) — Water leaks at a new Atlanta-area market that’s focused on minority-owned businesses have led to cracks, mold, buckets throughout the building — and tensions between some vendors and management.

Those who oversee the New Black Wall Street Market in Stonecrest have said the complaints are “growing pains” from a few frustrated businesses that will resolve over time, but some former tenants told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that poor management can’t easily be fixed.

“They’re going to burn themselves down,” said ex-vendor Denita Townes. “It’s just a matter of time.”

The market — named after the Black business district in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a race massacre happened in 1921 — opened last fall. Director Matt Hampton told the newspaper the recent problems should not take away from the market’s success, including quickly attracting thousands of shoppers and supporting more than 100 businesses.

“We’re going to get past this, and we’re going to continue to make this market all that it can be for our community and for the minority businesses that we’re growing currently,” he said.

Hampton said the fast timeline to open the market before last year’s holiday season might have led to roofing problems falling through the cracks.

Townes previously ran her crab cake business out of the market. She said a professional kitchen, hot water infrastructure and other necessities for commercial cooking had not been installed, forcing vendors to bring their products every day or cook outside in tents.

The tent area would often flood, so Townes said she was not surprised about the recent water issues. Management added gravel outside after she complained, but Townes said they also increased everyone’s weekly rent as a result.

Cassandra Shields, who runs a shea butter company, and Jason Jones, who runs a technology repair business, told the newspaper their rented spaces were flooded when they arrived Feb. 4. They said management dismissed their complaints and asked them to leave. Stonecrest Code Enforcement found water damage after Shields filed a complaint, according to documentation she shared.

Jones said he felt like management was going against the market’s goal: “It’s not the feeling of Black people being helped.”

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