Black Canadian non-profit opens 1st retail store on Granville Island to help boost community's profile

The Black Business Association of B.C. celebrated its first retail store on Granville Island. The store, called UEL, features products and artwork from the Black Canadian community in B.C. (Gurpreet Kambo/CBC - image credit)
The Black Business Association of B.C. celebrated its first retail store on Granville Island. The store, called UEL, features products and artwork from the Black Canadian community in B.C. (Gurpreet Kambo/CBC - image credit)

A non-profit organization that helps Black entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses has opened its first retail store on Granville Island.

The Black Business Association of B.C. (BBABC) celebrated the grand opening of UEL — which stands for Unity, Excellence and Legacy — on Saturday, Nov. 5. The association says it has been looking for a space to increase representation and sell products made by the Black Canadian community in B.C. since it began in 2019.

"We wanted to have a place and a platform to advertise products and to showcase what we can do as our community," said Clavia Alleyne, the vice president of BBABC.

Gurpreet Kambo/CBC
Gurpreet Kambo/CBC

He said the retail store is based on a co-op model where a percentage of the sale goes back to the original artist or business owner.

"Part of our culture is based on food, so we have a section here with food that is made and produced by local artisans. We have clothing ... we carry paintings, we carry art, seasonings, herbs and spices. We also carry crafts ... made in Ghana," he told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC's The Early Edition, on Monday.

He said the association has been looking all across the Lower Mainland for a retail spot but decided to set up shop on Granville Island to increase representation in high commercial areas around the city.

Submitted by Clavia Alleyne
Submitted by Clavia Alleyne

"It's important to let people know that we're here. We want to show ... that our community is present and we are thriving, and we are trying to be successful," said Alleyne.

Caribbean spices from grandma's recipe

Cullin David, the co-owner of Calabash Bistro in Vancouver, said he thought he was dreaming when he first got a call from BBABC to sell some of his Caribbean spices at its retail store.

"It brought me an incredible amount of joy," David told CBC News.

"The spice blends ... have been refined over the past 13 years, but it's from my grandmother's recipes."

Submitted by Cullin David
Submitted by Cullin David

Cullin, who is half Black and half Irish, said a store like UEL, where Ghanaian food and products are sold, is something he was searching for growing up in Vancouver.

"It's a place where they can see themselves, where they can enjoy their culture. It's very empowering, motivating, and it brings a lot of pride and joy to me as an individual."

Nyla Alleyne, who works at UEL part-time, says she feels a sense of belonging when she sees products that represent the Black Canadian community in B.C.

Submitted by Clavia Alleyne
Submitted by Clavia Alleyne

"In a predominantly white area where there is not a lot of representation for me, seeing something from my culture, having stuff where I can shop makes me feel like I belong ... it's something that I can find a lot of comfort in."

CBC
CBC