Standing in front of a colorful assortment of t-shirts, Amaree Gartrell is one of the youngest entrepreneurs to display their wares at the Athens Black Market on College Square Avenue.
“It was a spur of the moment,” Gartrell, 16, said of his decision to start his own business during last year’s pandemic.
He was joined by a range of black business owners and sellers as part of the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement event on Saturday.
Like other owners that day, Gartrell’s business – a clothing line called AG33Line – represented his personal story. The image of a lion surrounded by Gartrell’s motto: always hungry, never full appears on all of its products. He said the saying was created after facing his own difficulties while growing up.
“I had three heart procedures,” Gartrell said, adding that it was difficult to play sports growing up because of his heart disease which caused a rapid heartbeat.
But after his third procedure, he was able to learn basketball more seriously in sixth grade. Since then he has been determined never to settle down, he said.
During the pandemic, he came to see his father, Sherman Gartrell, with the idea of starting his own business. Sherman said that upon hearing his son’s idea of putting his personal motto on a clothing line, he immediately saw a spark.
“I told it to his story, the heart procedures and not being able to play sports when he was younger,” he said.
Sherman, a full-fledged entrepreneur, said he has been running his own printing business since leaving the military in 1994. Likewise, he said his father was a business owner who earned his income. life while cutting pulpwood back then.
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“This event right here allows us, as African Americans, to come downtown since we are largely on the outskirts,” Sherman said, adding that it also allows black business owners to. present what they have to offer to a wide range of people.
The event almost came as a celebration of the variety of College Square Avenue business owners with live music and a DJ to liven up.
Adrienne Chappell, owner of Chalises Heavenly Inspired, showcased an assortment of soaps, butters and more. His luxury bath and body business specializes in natural, organic and herbal products.
Chapell said the business started in 2013 after seeing a dermatologist over her own skin care issues. She said that after deciding to stop using pharmaceuticals, she decided to research the Bible for natural oils and natural remedies for skin care.
“Skin health is my thing,” Chapell said, adding that the products people put on their skin are as important as the food they eat.
She said the decision to use natural products could pay dividends for many as it did for her.
“Especially for people of color,” Chapell said. “We seem to have a high rate of eczema and other skin care issues, even though we have great skin.”
Since the pandemic, her business has continued to grow its online presence, she said. But events like the Athens black market have helped shine a light on small businesses that still need support.
“It’s really important for us to support small businesses because we don’t have places, buildings or storefronts to necessarily set up our products for sale,” she said. “So these events were a great way for us to showcase our business to let people know that we are still running and we are up and running, even in these times. “
Opposite Chapell’s assortment of skin care products, Daelynn White had a variety of artwork on display for onlookers.
White, 19, said she started her own business, Buddha Broccoli Art Gallery, in January, but has always been interested in the creative field.
She said that growing up, she drew cartoons that she would see on TV, which also served as inspiration. After watching “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”, she created a series of jazz-inspired artwork to display for the event.
“I never went to art school so I learned it myself,” White said, adding that some of his favorite artists are Jean Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.
White said many people of color are not commonly seen in the city center, so events like the Athens Black Market are important to show that there is money to be made with business owners. black business.
“It’s just good to bring that energy out here and show that we’re making money too,” she said. “I’m glad they got to show it.”
Sherman echoed similar sentiments. He said the event also showed young people the variety of business avenues to choose from if they choose an entrepreneurial path.
“There are so many opportunities here that you don’t have to settle for it,” he said. “If you want it, you can get it. This is what I have been doing since I left the army in 1994.