By Betty Yu

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Black-owned business owners in Oakland say they are seeing real change – not just in sales, but in people’s consciousness of racial injustice.

The sign “Black Owned” in the window of Brown Sugar Kitchen on Broadway is the reason it was spared during a night of looting and unrest in Oakland, according to chef and owner Tanya Holland.

“A neighbor who lives in the building upstairs told me that it was like the Red Sea had parted. It was just mayhem, chaos, and they saw the signs and they just kept going,” she said.

The following day, the soul food restaurant saw its highest sales ever, since the beginning of the shelter-in-place order.

“It tells me that me and my business are important to this community, which is just heartwarming,” said Holland.

Holland says she hopes the show of support is long-term. She wants to see sustained conversation around race in America.

She says she has witnessed and experienced implicit biases for years.

“I’ve been speaking to it for awhile as a black woman in business, in an industry that’s predominantly male dominated, and white male dominated, the financing of the business,” said Holland. “And I think a lot of people maybe thought I was crying wolf.”

Now she says she’s seeing a new level of awareness.

Cupcakin’ Bake Shop with locations in Oakland and Berkeley says sales have actually jumped 20% from before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We had a record-breaking Friday yesterday in sales,” said owner Lila Owens. “We’re getting tons of shout-outs on Instagram, and people are tagging us on black-owned business lists, so we’ve been super supported and we’re so grateful for it.”

New research out of UC Santa Cruz showed about 40% of black-owned businesses in the US have closed for good, compared to less than 20% of white-owned businesses during the pandemic.

“There’s definitely challenges that come along with being a black business owner from resources that are available, to people discriminating against you when you’re trying to get a lease or a loan,” said Owens. “And so we’ve been able to navigate that successfully.”

High-end fashion boutique McMullen, with locations in Oakland and Palo Alto, consciously hired a diverse staff to represent its brand.

For the last 13 years, owner Sherri McMullen has been highlighting designers of color, including Christopher John Rogers. This month, McMullen is donating a portion of sales to organizations including Black Lives Matter, NAACP, and Know Your Rights Camp.

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