Support is a verb. That’s the catchphrase of Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon’s The Village at PCM (a component of The Village Market), and it’s the very foundation of every decision she makes both personally and professionally. As a former high school English teacher and Georgia Department of Education researcher, Dr. Hallmon says today, her classroom is her community: “I’ve been called to teach and to share the things that I’ve learned as an entrepreneur. [With The Village Market], we create opportunities, trainings, classes and incubators for entrepreneurs. Here, we can tell them about our hardships, but we also give them the gems.”
Dr. Hallmon’s first foray into entrepreneurship is The Village Market. Through targeted programming and market events, The Village connects Black-owned businesses to shoppers, resources, and even investors. Before the pandemic, The Village Market hosted events where these very businesses could sell their goods to consumers face-to-face at their quarterly marketplaces. “It was really amazing to experience business owners’ trajectories change over the course of one marketplace,” explains Dr. Hallmon. “Their beliefs in what they created were shifted by people who simply told them ‘good job,’ and then they followed up that good job with a transaction. To me, that was the root for building strong businesses in the community.”
But then, everything changed. “When we realized that COVID was something that was going to be here for a while, and it was going to fatally kill people, and at the same time, kill businesses, I had an opportunity to move to virtual,” says Dr. Hallmon.
Although being virtual allowed The Village Market to reach more entrepreneurs, it was not an ideal solution. For one, Dr. Hallmon missed that person-to-person interaction, and for another, she was watching, wide-eyed, as one brick-and-mortar after another closed. The dream of opening a storefront was a goal for many of her businesses, and as thousands of businesses across the country closed, those dreams slowly dissipated. Dr. Hallmon couldn’t stand by. She says, “I have social equity, and I also have a strong business model. I can create what I was doing seasonally with my quarterly marketplaces and open up a physical retail location, and it can still reflect the values of The Village.” So she did.
The Village at PCM opened at Atlanta’s Ponce City Market on December 2, 2020. “This physical space represents 29 different stories,” explains Dr. Hallmon. “That’s 29 different people believing in themselves and 29 businesses that I was for certain weren’t going to survive COVID-19 or the impact of the pandemic. So, I was going to make sure that they did.”
Everything within the store’s four walls is shoppable. Plush yet streamlined velvet sofas, chic shelving and intricately designed chandeliers outfitting the store are made by Melita Issa’s MISO Studios. Sophie Rose Candle Co.‘s scents waft through the air, livening your senses and bringing the shopping experience to life. Posh jewelry and luxurious clothing and accessories line tables and racks. I found myself lusting after gold and acrylic flatware by The Muted Home and putting a preppy quilted jacket by GOAT by James King on my (and my husband’s) wishlist. The shop marries thriving businesses like Hairbrella with fledgling ones, which is a win for everyone. “We want brands to care about the overall efficacy of the community,” says Dr. Hallmon.
Ideally, that means working toward generational wealth and economic equity, which might seem like a huge undertaking, but it has to start somewhere. For businesses, that means applying what they’ve learned and running with it. “The goal is that when brands leave us, the foundation and the framework of their businesses have improved, so if they so choose to open their own brick-and-mortar location, they can,” Dr. Hallmon explains. For shoppers, that means not just saying we support our Black friends and businesses, but actually doing so with our wallets. Dr. Hallmon continues, “At the end of the year, if you can’t show me your bank account and the number of transactions that you spent that supported a Black business, then I really question if [economic equity] is something that you are behind.”
That might sound like tough love from Dr. Hallmon, but now, little over a month into the new year, is the ideal time for self-reflection, tough love or not. “With the unrest that was happening over the summer [of 2020], when people were searching for a place to put their passion, their anger and frustration, I saw people using support as a verb and saying, ‘I’m going to support, uplift and promote Black businesses,'” Dr. Hallmon says. “And I just remember silently clapping. It’s like, ‘Oh, good. This is working. This is what I wanted.’”
For Dr. Hallmon, it’s not about the success of The Village at PCM. It’s about the success of her mentor businesses individually, and more importantly, the Black community as a whole: “It’s a different model for sure. If you ask some people, they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re too generous.’ But I’ve been compelled to do something completely different. I know that I am more about social impact. I want the businesses to thrive whether they’re in The Village at PCM or not.”
Support, after all, is a verb.
The Village at PCM is located at Ponce City Market at 675 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta, GA. Hours are Monday through Saturday, noon to 7 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.
All photography by Carol Rose.
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