Cupcakes & Community Development

Continuing to think back to my stay in Anacostia, S.E. Washington D.C. and connections to the Hill District (see Mr. Laing Goes to Washington), allow me to introduce an impressive operation, Olivia’s Cupcakes. The store is a brilliant combination of tasty treats, economic and community development as well as an educational facility. Here you have all the principles of the Nguzo Saba wrapped up in one experience. My family came across Olivia’s as we were driving out of Anacostia to go to MD a couple of Saturdays ago. When I saw it, I had to bust a U-Turn to see what was up with this gourmet cupcake store, smack dab in the middle of the ‘hood. Once inside, we learned that Ms. Cindy Bullock began the store, along with Royelle’s  Princess Party Palace upstairs, as an opportunity to express her love for baking while showing her two daughters, Olivia and Royelle, how to run a business. Thus, Olivia’s Cupcakes and Royelle’s are providing real live spaces to teach all the elements of becoming an entrepreneur while providing the community with upscale deserts. The idea of creative deserts in this predominantly African American neighborhood, combined with a family taking education into their own hands and preparing children to run their own shops was powerful to see. But none it works without the cupcakes being delicious and they are with just the right amount of icing and moist cake… you go, Bullocks! Next time you are in D.C. go check them out at 2318 Minnesota Ave, S.E. Washington D.C.

Olivia and Royelle at Olivia's cupcakes

Olivia and Royelle at Olivia’s cupcakes

Thinking about the larger environment and its relationship to things that do and don’t happen in predominantly African American neighborhoods, it was interesting to me that around the corner from Olivia’s is another relative new operation, a grocery store that was once called Yes! Organic and is now called Fairlawn Market. The grocery store apparently got a $900,000 grant from the city and has struggled to be profitable, but I wonder what the support network in Anacostia is for long-time Anacostians like Ms. Cindy Bullock and small businesses like Olivia’s? The store helped give the neighborhood personality and in talking to Ms. Bullock and her daughters, I was learning about the history and culture of Anacostia. I will go back to Anacostia for that experience and as a person who is part of the Black professional class for the forseeable future, Olivia’s helps to make this a neighborhood I would want to go and live in. What are the opportunities for Hill District entrepreneurs, such as the folks at Grandma B’s, to open businesses in the redevelopment of this community? Hopefully as the Hill District changes it will include a heathy proportion of indigenous business ownership. In this way, the neighborhood maintains and develops its character as a predominantly African American community with a proud legacy, while offering the secondary benefit of making Pittsburgh a more fair, interesting and important city.

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