Two Kansas City businesses are teaming up to host a special Valentine's Day pop up this weekend.
Big Mood Natural Wines and The Black Pantry mobile market have come together to host a pop up on Sat., Feb. 13 from 11am to 4pm, offering the opportunity to shop for an excellent bottle of wine and pick up a small gift or sweet treat all in the same spot.
The Black Pantry will be popping up inside of the popular wine shop, selling food and body products all made by Black-owned businesses and curated specifically to celebrate the romantic weekend ahead. Look for hand-painted chocolate bonbons and sablé cookies from Petite Souer, Cocomallow sandwich cookies and coconut macaroons from Sweet Dames Artisan Confections and scented candles with names like Love Jones, Wakanda Forever and This Woman’s Work from Frères Branchiaux.
Launched last year by local entrepreneur Brian Roberts, The Black Pantry mobile market was created as a way to highlight the breadth of products that are made by Black-owned entrepreneurs. His mission is to introduce these quality products and brands to a larger audience, and he only carries products on his truck that he and his family have tested at home and support.
“Last July during the protests, the Black community in Kansas City decided to support our own, with many of us looking for products to purchase to support Black-owned businesses with our own dollars,” Roberts explains. “Black companies are limited in the retail spaces they have access to, and it is much harder for our products to make it to the big box retail store shelves, so I thought I would create a storefront that focused solely on these brands. My mission is to discover, support and create awareness around Black products that meet a premium quality and brand standard.”
Roberts originally planned to open a storefront, but then got the idea for a mobile market after seeing a woman selling clothes and accessories out of a trailer parked in a parking lot. He figured he could cover more ground with a mobile market and scale his new business from there. Soon, he had found and branded his 1,000-square-foot mobile market, which hit the road last year. So far, he's hosted pop ups at Made Mobb, Made in KC, Ruby Jean’s, Westside Storey and Fetch in the West Bottoms.
“I plan to continue to host monthly pop ups and eventually build out my website to sell product kits online so customers can sample many things at once,” Roberts says. “We are building The Black Pantry to be a premium brand and business in the community, and those are the types of businesses that I have been fortunate to collaborate with so far.”
Originally from Kansas City, Roberts spent time in California and then moved back to the area with his wife and three kids in 2018. Looking for a way to help support more Black entrepreneurs like himself, he started The Black Pantry and hasn’t looked back. With a full-time job at Honeywell and a background in marketing and merchandise management at Costco, he's had to manage 80,000 skews before, and he is drawing on that experience to help him select the right products for The Black Pantry.
“I am looking for companies that already have an eye for quality and a developed brand, and then I want The Black Pantry to be the small springboard to help them possibly get into bigger retail spaces,” he says. “I want to help buyers and merchandisers dig a little deeper to find these Black-owned companies and products.”
So far, Roberts has not found a wide variety of local premium Black-owned products to choose from in Kansas City, so he buys what he can locally and then fills in with products from across the country. After sampling numerous products, he has roughly 22 vendors in his mobile market. Although the majority of these are food-related products, he also carries health and home products, too.
Top sellers have been Trade Street Jam Co., a Black woman-owned business out of Brooklyn, New York, that makes gourmet vegan jams in flavors like sour cherry-ginger and blackberry-mulled Merlot, along with Vicky Cakes, which makes a delicious instant pancake and waffle mix. Renton, Washington-based Boon Boona Coffee sells coffee beans sourced from Ethiopia, Burundi and Rwanda, while Smile Natural Products sells non-toxic, vegan and sustainable toothpaste, mouthwash and toothbrushes. Butter Love makes luxurious body butters, lip balms, moisturizers and bath salts that smell as good as they feel.
“When I find a product that I want on my truck, I propose two different options to the owners of the company: I can either buy cases from them at wholesale and resell them on my truck, or they can come with me to the pop up and get 100 percent of what they sell at my events,” Roberts says. “It is their choice; I am providing the opportunity.”
Roberts is clear that he wants to help build up premium brands in Kansas City and to encourage budding entrepreneurs to take the leap knowing that there is a place for their products on his shelf.
“My long-term plan is to have a small storefront full of premium products with a coffee shop and wine/beer bar built in so people would come to shop and then stay and socialize,” says Roberts. “I am looking at the future of retail, and I think the corner market is the future. I look forward to the day when people know and buy these products because they are familiar with them and like them. The creation side of building my own brand is all new to me, and no one really knows what’s coming with COVID still in the mix, so at this point I am just looking to build awareness of what I am offering and have some fun with it. I am enjoying the ride and scaling to make sure that I am successful long-term.”
Editor's Note: This post has been updated to correct that the pop up will be hosted inside Big Mood Natural Wines.
The Black Pantry, theblackpantry.square.site
Big Mood Natural Wines, 2020 Baltimore Ave. Suite 102, Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.866.0799, bigmoodnaturalwines.com