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Diverse Small Businesses Thrive Across CBL’s Mall Portfolio


By: Nicole Burney and Taffany Britton


At CBL Properties, we are committed to helping local entrepreneurs and small business owners thrive. Our centers often function as launchpads for small businesses operated by a diverse group of owners.


Our specialty leasing team works to bring these growing concepts to our malls, partnering with local small business owners to help them showcase their products on a larger scale, whether through our POP-UP Shop program or temporary activations. Most recently, the specialty leasing team coordinated a Black-owned business expo at Hamilton Place in our hometown of Chattanooga.


In keeping with our goal of celebrating diversity and serving as an incubator for small business, the expo featured more than 20 local vendors, offering products including skincare, clothing and accessories, candles and soaps, and food. The all-day event gave the Chattanooga community an opportunity to support local, Black-owned small businesses, and in-turn these businesses were able to boost exposure for their brands.


During the Black-owned business expo, visits to our mall increased 15% over the same Saturday in 2020 at Hamilton Place and 31% over the same Saturday in 2019. From the success of our first Black-owned business expo, it’s clear that our customers are looking for distinctive experiences that allow them to engage with a wide variety of diverse brands as well as support their local community.


We are passionate about hosting the Black-owned business expo, and other business expos, knowing it could be the catalyst to open the door for a diverse new entrepreneur, who had not yet considered the mall as a reachable platform. Our team works closely with business owners to bring their brands to life, enabling them to grow alongside national brands and retailers.  Business owners can experiment with physical space and test new markets, while leveraging the existing foot traffic our malls offer. A few vendors from the expo have already returned to Hamilton Place for a weekend to test out our POP-UP Cart program and we’re in discussions with others to return to the mall in our POP-UP Shop.


Hamilton Place isn’t the only location in our portfolio where Black-owned businesses are thriving. Last winter, we welcomed BLCK Market to Pearland Town Center in Pearland, Texas. BLCK Market is emblematic of our goal to offer local entrepreneurs a platform to launch their businesses, as the concept itself is an incubator for 25 distinct Black-owned brands. At Monroeville Mall, a small marketplace for Black-owned businesses called The COLAB opened after the owner first hosted a POP-UP Marketplace in 2019. In its permanent location, the space now hosts around 20 vendors, selling goods including candles, essential oils and CBD products.


We are excited to host more Black-owned business expos over the next few months, including expos at Northwoods Mall in North Charleston, South Carolina, on June 11; Parkway Place Mall in Huntsville, Alabama, on June 18; and Arbor Place in Douglasville, Georgia, in August.


As we adapt to the changing face of retail, we look forward to continuing to serve as an incubator for small, local, and diverse concepts that best represent our communities.

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