Minority-owned businesses have been hit hard over the past year, so this Black History Month, Alumni is going to highlight local Black-owned businesses that you should support if you can.
During the month of February, Alumni is also donating half of the proceeds from our in-house collection of apparel and accessories to Building Black Bed Stuy. The other half of the proceeds will be donated to Welcome to Chinatown's Longevity Fund in observation of Lunar New Year and to alleviate some the tremendous stress Chinese businesses have endured.
Myriam Simpierre opened the doors to Buy Better Foods in April, 2020 bringing her knowledge of and passion for eating good food to the heart of Bed Stuy. We were able to talk with Myriam about her inspiration, what it was like to open in a pandemic, and the experiences that have made her business so rewarding.
Where did your passion for "better foods" come from?
I didn't realize that something as simple as buying and eating better foods could have such a profoundly positive impact on your life. You have to know better to do better, as they say. I wanted to help others know better, and support those that are already trying to do better. We try to offer boutique-quality customer service. People tell us what they're looking for, or what challenges they're trying to address, or what kind of diet they're working with, and we do our best to support them. BBF is also about trying to support zero-waste principles. We have bulk soaps and cleansers and bulk teas and herbs and grains. We're constantly being put onto new things like bar shampoos and lotions. If we really value natural products, then we have to do whatever we can - even if it's just a little change - to try to support nature.
I didn't realize that something as simple as buying and eating better foods could have such a profoundly positive impact on your life.
What are some of your products that you're most excited about?
I love being the first retail outlet for some of our vendors who previously only sold online or door-to-door. We carry Blossoms and Bud soaps, by a local Brooklyn sister. Her soaps smell like tasty treats. We were her first retail location and she's doing well. We carry a hot sauce from a brother who has lots of friends in the neighborhood who come support him because they're excited to see him in a store (and because his pepper sauce is lit!). We were the first retail outlet for a Brooklyn local who makes Haitian specialty cremas (an alcohol-free version), and for a brother who makes a flavored, snackable kind of sea moss gel. He's now in stores throughout NYC and in Long Island, but we were the first.
You opened in April, towards the beginning of the pandemic. How did Bed Stuy welcome you?
Bed Stuy was great. They kept us alive when an early break-in almost derailed us. They showed up and showed out on Blackout Tuesday and we have quite a few locals who are regulars. We hope to develop more locals who are regulars. Since we opened during the pandemic, we couldn't have a grand opening celebration, so a large portion of our customers heard about us through a neighbor.
“Support Black Businesses” has become a popular slogan. What does it mean to you beyond a saying or hashtag?
It means that we as black people are able to use our dollars to support efforts that are customized and tailored for us - like resources that are in our communities, carry the kinds of things that we appreciate and help us sustain ourselves. Supporting black businesses keeps our dreams alive and showcases them for everyone to see and appreciate and enjoy.
What about opening, owning, and operating Buy Better Foods has made you most proud?
Along with just being glad to be able to keep the doors open financially, I'm so excited that so many others have looked to me as a role model and positive example. It's been great to work with schools and community members and see parents bring their kids in here and tell them, "SHE owns this store, this is black-owned."