From Wilmington’s earliest times, the hard work of Black citizens in business has led to national recognition. The perseverance of free people, even in the face of discrimination, has INspired countless entrepreneurs to hang their own shingles in hopes of building generational wealth and business success.
In the 1700s, Betty Jackson established a tea room on French Street, where, according to Carole C. Marks in “A History of African Americans of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore” (Delaware Public Archives), “she sold cakes, fruit, and desserts to wealthy people for their parties. Her son, Jeremiah Shadd, was a butcher, well-known for his ability to cure meat. His wife, known as Aunt Sallie Shadd, achieved legendary status among Wilmington’s free black population as the inventor of ice cream.”
As legend goes, Sallie served her confection to First Lady Dolley Madison, and it became a White House favorite. (Click here for another famous connection between ice cream and a freed Black person in America: James Hemings.)
More members of the Shadd family achieved success, Mary An Shadd, as a teacher and newspaper publisher (possibly the first Black woman in America to do so), and her father was a shoemaker.
Marcus Garvey (the inspiration for Wilmington’s nickname of “Garvey City), founded a shipping company—the Black Star Line—incorporating it in Delaware in 1919, to facilitate the transportation of goods and passengers between America and Africa.
Today, you can find Black-owned businesses in every neighborhood of Wilmington, ranging from restaurants (aplenty!) to fashion retailers, to media companies. This is a by-no-means exhaustive list of businesses you can support and we’d love for you to join IN the conversation on social and tell us your favorite black-owned businesses #inWilm!
Celebrations on Market
Chef Marc-Antony Williams brings a variety of delicious dishes to life in his unique space on South Market, which makes for an excellent rental venue for your next private gathering!
The Chicken Spot
From the owners of The Plum Pit Food Truck, this cozy spot on 10th Street offers comfort food for chicken lovers, including breakfast from 7-10am (chicken biscuit, anyone?).
Connie’s Chicken and Waffles
Sweet and savory is the idea here – try a buttermilk waffle with chicken wings, or a red velvet waffle with tenders. Or switch it out for sweet cinnamon, chocolate chip or Oreo waffles. Maple syrup or powdered sugar accompany your waffles depending on flavor. Extras include fruits, sprinkles, whipped cream or a cream cheese drizzle.
Drop Squad Kitchen
Chef Abundance Child has put Wilmington on the vegan map with folks from ALL OVER travelling to visit her fresh, completely from scratch, plant-based offerings. The vegan cheesesteak is a don’t miss.
If you haven’t been here, no doubt you’ve driven by it a million times and wondered why you’ve never stopped. This is a breakfast, lunch and dinner spot, with quite a bit of nearby parking. Catfish, meatloaf, greens and mac and cheese are staples.
Fat Rick’s BBQ and Catering
If you’re a fan of Wilmington events then it’s likely you’re already quite familiar with chef Rick Betz and his delicious wood-fired Southern BBQ…After all, nobody beats his meat!
Grapes Real Jamaican Cuisine
Be right back…there are $5 lunch specials at Grapes from Monday through Wednesday and all orders come with sides and a can of soda! There is chicken aplenty, but also brown stew fish with rice and peas and cabbage. Saltfish dishes include ackee and callaloo, but also butter beans. Liver? Porridge? Yep. And patties are 2 for $3 on Mondays, all day. Plus: soups all summer!
Green Box Kitchen
Hand-crafted bowls, fresh-pressed juices, smoothies…Market Street’s only exclusively plant-based kitchen is perfect for anyone looking for a FRESH take on food.
Just to Serve You Seafood & Soulfood
The name says it all, soul food and fresh seafood sure to satisfy whether you’re picking up a to-go order from their W. 11th Street location or having them cater your next event!
Tynisha Lomax has been creating community around her fine selection of teas since 2014. While tea parties have been on hold for a while, online ordering ensures you can rotate through a number of your favorited caffeinated or decaf cold infusions all summer, and you can stock up for that first fall frost.
The Mayne Dish
Terrence Mayne churns out standard Jamaican fare like jerk and curry chicken, but this is the first time we’ve spotted Jamaican rum cake on a menu, as well as coco bread. If you want the pepper steak, order on Friday and Saturday, or you’ll have to hire The Mayne Dish to cater your party.
Milk & Honey Cafe and Gallery
This is a refreshing spot on the west side, where business people would meet during pre-pandemic times, for lattes and smoothies. Standard breakfasts include eggs and cheese, bagels, muffins and danishes, French toast or pancakes, and avocado toast. A handful of sandwiches and a kale Caesar allow you to choose your lunch quickly and get back to business.
Russell’s Quality Food
Next time you need to visit Walmart, stash your cold groceries in a cooler so you can stop by Alphonso Russell’s spot across Centerville Road. A BBQ style described as a cross between Kansas City and Carolina, enjoy pulled pork, brisket (Friday only), jerked chicken…plus breakfast! (Honestly, we’d eat BBQ for breakfast even if you didn’t call it breakfast!) Grab a burger or a dog for any seasoning-averse passengers you may have.
Serena’s Soulfood Catering
While fried food is standard on Serena’s menu, on lucky days, you can catch honey BBQ salmon. Crab balls and creamy crab fries are a stand out on this menu. Pineapple tea will quench a summer thirst and crunch cake will satisfy your sweet tooth.
Taste of the Tropic
On Fridays and Saturdays only, enjoy breakfast items like porridge, ackee and saltfish, and callaloo and saltfish. The rest of the week, get your Caribbean standards like jerk chicken or shrimp, oxtail or curried goat. A side of fried dumplings or plantains makes the meal complete.
The new kid on the block, Tasties 302 opened their doors in the middle of a pandemic. Building on their Philly reputation, Tasties 302 came out of the gate in Wilmington with crab bags to go, which feature Alaskan crab legs, shrimp, corn, potatoes, turkey sausages, boiled eggs and house sauce. While they certainly are a fried chicken and soul food spot, don’t sleep on the lamb and turkey jawns and salads.
Walt’s Flavor Crisp Chicken Express
Located on Lincoln Street, as well as Carpenter Station, Walt’s has been a Wilmington institution for over three decades. As the name implies, crisp chicken is their specialty, and nothing goes better with chicken than a biscuit. Fried shrimp, fish sandwiches, all the standard sides, plus a list of desserts round out the menu – the larger bag includes Dungeness crabs and mussels.
If you want to be dressed to the nines, don’t forget the accessories. Cherné Altovise offers bangles, cuffs, hoops, chokers, rings and more. You can even get a bling name necklace put together to sear your identity into minds. This shop is Sexy with a capital S. Altovise has also created her own list of “Melanin on Market,” which will point you to beauty and services and more from Black-owned businesses.
Tell ‘em how you feel with a shirt, a mask, a bracelet or a mug. (We would NEVER suggest stickers be put anywhere without official permission, of course.) After your purchase, be sure to check out Aki Tymes’ story about his first encounter with racism. He has since learned that “being silent about racism won’t make it go away” and creates apparel as a tangible critique of the establishment.
The Mommy Connection
It’s a mom thing. We know other moms will understand, which is why shirts, totes and hats screen with “Mom Sh!t” make us feel confident, even when we’re rolling out (late) with something dried in our hair. Sage out the playroom, or burn the candle during a midnight (our only alone time) bubble bath, and start all over tomorrow.
Morgan’s of Delaware
Delaware’s greatest beauties have been dressed by Martha Morgan, who has swayed and bended with the times, and continues to find excellent locations for her chic fashion boutique. When you see a Miss Delaware, it’s likely she’s got a Morgan’s of Delaware piece on. From inaugurations to charity balls to proms, this should be your first stop for glam.
For those with friends wearing all colors of the skin rainbow, represent your unity with a “Together We Stand” shirt, bag or sticker. All profits for Mott sales on Society6 will go toward the Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) here in Delaware, working to provide education, rehabilitation, resources, and more.
Leisure & More
This website was founded by Leonard Young to provide the African-American community a resource, and help promote the growth of Black-Owned businesses and community organizations, and encourage the support for African-American events. It includes a Black business directory with a broad variety of business categories.
Jet Phynx Films
Parris Duncan, also known as Jet Phynx (pronounced fee-nix) is a rapper, director and cinematographer who just recently partnered up with Wilmington’s Laydbug Festival for its first online-only festival. The event is receiving national news coverage and will benefit Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, and Downtown Visions for disbursement to the downtown businesses that depend on Ladybug as a summer time boost in business.
NERDiT NOW and The NERDiT Foundation, Inc.
Co-partner Markevis Gideon works endlessly to bring technology, repair services and free educational opportunities to under-served communities and folks IN need, and that’s just one small part of this company’s year-round operations. Focused on purchasing, repairing and reselling computers, phones and tablets—in a timely and cost-efficient manner—NERDiT now is an excellent source for all of your technology needs.
Painted Stave Distilling
We never want to tell you to exit the city, but a road trip to Smyrna is worth it, whether Ron Gomes is shaking your cocktail or not. While the S’mores White Russian is more of a winter thing, in summer, you can enjoy a tiki cocktail in the garden or on a patio and pretend you’re somewhere tropical. Peachy vodka sweet tea and boozy milkshakes will cool you down.
Steven Lewis, a wedding DJ and photo booth operator, got creative when COVID tanked his normal activities. He rolled out an online version of his Music Video Bingo. Now he’s running bingo out of a parking lot in Elkton every Friday – Maryland Beer Co. We hope to see them back at Trolley Tap, Rooney’s and Argillas soon.