A good hangout: BIPOC Market Place celebrates business, community and entrepreneurs

Visitors to the Black, Indigenous and People of Color Market visit near The Hive Nail Hub July 18.

Local business owner and young entrepreneur advocate Alicia Strom hosted a People of Color Celebration and Market Place in the parking lot of her nail salon on July 18. 

The Hive Nail Hub, on Menlo Drive, provided space to celebrate minority-owned businesses in the Oregon area. Entrepreneurs and businesses from Portland to Silverton with offerings ranging from food to beauty and holistic wellness products.

In light of the ongoing protests surrounding police brutality due to George Floyd’s death in late May, Strom wanted to give the community something to celebrate.

“It was just hard to see the separation in all of the communities, because in some ways it [the recent focus on Black Lives Matter (BLM) did bring togetherness [but] then also it really divided,” Strom said.

The tension in the community hit Strom so strongly, in part, because she comes from a biracial family and has seen a Black man and a white woman love each other unconditionally.

Troy Campbell of Uncle Troy’s BBQ (Keizer) oversees his stepson, Darius, preparing a hotdog for a customer.

“I had been wanting to do a Juneteenth celebration,” Strom said, “I grew up celebrating it every year. In my family, [we’d] make food and have a good hangout.” 

She was unable to get the event together in time to do it close to Juneteenth.

Strom wants to make it an annual event and said next year she would like it to be closer to the June 19, 2021, but not directly on that weekend.

“There was a lot of controversy on the matter when I first presented it. Everyone wanted me to name it a BLM thing and when I first posted it to the Keizer Bulletin it wasn’t taken well,” Strom said. Not all saw it as the inclusive community event she hoped to offer.

“People are set in their views, but that’s understandable. They’ve only lived a life in their views so I have complete compassion for that,” Strom said. “How can I expect them to understand something they’ve never been through?”

Though she has a heart for the entire community, this year focused heavily on Black-owned businesses because of the spotlight that is currently on Black issues throughout the country. 

“A certain group of people was having a hard time and I saw that need,” Strom said. She likened it to a child communicating that something is wrong and they need help.

Despite generating controversy when it was initially announced, Strom felt the event successfully accomplished what it set out to do: spread awareness and support of local businesses, celebrate people of color and bring the community together.

“Once you got there, you saw it, because it was so uplifting. Everyone sold out. It was amazing,” Strom said.

The market festival ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the main crowd coming toward the start of the event. When the Keizertimes arrived around 2 p.m. most vendors had sold out of their products. Strom noted that attendees and vendors followed social distancing guidelines and there were sanitation stations set up.

There were free bubbles for children to play with and goodie bags for all attendees. Several vendors were accompanied by friends or family giving it “good hang out” feel, Strom said. She estimated 140 people came through at some point in the day. 

Kenny Green and son Deon dance in the parking lot. 

The music playing over the speakers was periodically interrupted by emcee Jerry Green, from KSOS the Soul of Salem Radio, to announce raffle winners. One vendor, Kenny Green, danced with his son, Deon until he got camera shy; Green then picked up his son and held him while Deon hid.

“My main hope was that my vendors would be supported. I think that’s what any host hopes, that they didn’t show up for nothing,” Strom said. 

Though the event was hosted in Keizer, vendors from all over Oregon are welcomed and encouraged.  

Growing up in Salem before moving to Silverton, Strom has a soft spot for the area. 

“I like Keizer a lot. My business is in Keizer,” Strom said. She has bigger plans for the event moving forward, but it will always take place in Keizer.

Natalie Edwards of Lucile and Annie’s Poundcakes (located in Beaverton).

“If the city lets me, my main thing is [that] I want to do is a celebration parade. That’s what I really, really, really want to get it to,” Strom said. 

Her vision is a parade that goes through Keizer celebrating the community and local businesses and people of color that follows a route and ends up at a final location where the vendor event takes place. She wants the event to be all inclusive and give young entrepreneurs a chance to showcase their craft.

“It doesn’t matter skin color. I just want to help people get out there with what they’re doing,” Strom said. Her passion carries over to her nail salon which is staffed with independent contractors, most of whom have recently graduated beauty school and are building a client base.

Strom said it was hard for her to get started in the business world. Someone took a chance on her and now that she has secured her footing she wants to give others who are starting out a chance, too.

“I’m strong enough for myself, and I have extra love to give, why not show that support,” Strom said.