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Black-owned businesses band together to boost opportunity, culture in Grand Rapids

Wealthy Street used to be a predominantly African American business district, but Robinson told us there are only two black-owned businesses there today.
flickr user Steven Depolo

The Next Idea

One proven way to give local businesses a boost is by grouping them together and building a brand. Think Detroit’s Greektown or Corktown, or Little Italy and Chinatown in other cities.

Jamiel Robinson is working to make that happen for black-owned businesses in Grand Rapids.

Robinson is founder and curator of the group Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses.

Robinson grew up in Grand Rapids, and told us he’s seen a lot of black-owned businesses squeezed out over the years.

“Wealthy Street, which was once predominantly an African American business district, seemed like overnight had become a gentrified district,” he said.

There are now only two businesses owned by African Americans along the whole stretch of Wealthy Street, according to Robinson.

GRABB wants to bring a variety of businesses together, from mass employers all the way down to mom-and-pop stores.

“We’re looking for … all the different  types of businesses to be a part of GRABB, because it will take a collective of all the businesses coming together to be able to bring about sustainable change when it comes to the quality of life of African Americans here in Grand Rapids.”

Robinson talks more about building an African American business district and how it could improve the quality of life for so many in our full conversation below.


The Next Idea is Michigan Radio’s project devoted to new innovations and ideas that will change our state.

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