How One Couple Became Role Models for Black-owned Businesses in their Neighborhood

After years of commuting 500 miles a week to a corporate job, Dennis Boyd was ready to put down some local roots. In May 2019, Dennis and his wife Valere opened Manchester Market in South Central Los Angeles, not far from where Dennis grew up. 

Manchester Market is a neighborhood store that provides a community vibe only a true local could create. They sell snacks, grocery items, and a selection of beverages including the hard-to-find soft drink with a cult following Peach Crush. Dennis, his mother, and Valere take turns working the register and greeting new and old friends. “It’s cool because I grew up in this area. We get a lot of old friends, people I went to school with, old teachers. It’s great,” Dennis explains. 

More consumers are becoming more mindful about the social impact of their shopping dollars.  Mission-driven businesses like Manchester Market are smart to use social media. Manchester Market consistently uses the #Blackownedbusiness on social media and hopes to see more opportunities to support minority-owned small businesses. Valere explains, “It’s important to use the hashtag because I think it’s important people understand that not only are Black people huge consumers, they also run successful businesses.” 

She continues, “There’s not a lot of Black businesses in our area. There’s a lot of challenges with that. But I think now with this movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, I think a lot of that’s going to change. There’s a lot of access now to find new businesses, and there’s more people that are looking for these businesses. People that aren’t even necessarily Black. They’re just people that support the movement, and they’re looking to put their money where their mouth is.”

Not long after opening their doors, The Boyds signed up for Wish Local as a way to save money on advertising. Valere says, “Having Wish Local, a lot of people came in and said, ‘Oh we didn’t know you were here!’ It’s pretty cool because it’ll bring in people who don’t even live in our neighborhood.” Dennis estimates that one in every five Wish shoppers make a purchase from the market.

As community pillars, The Boyds are compassionate to their many regular customers who come from all walks of life. “We have a lot of people who live out of their cars. We have people who are in and out of jail. We also have a veteran who brings us meals. He makes a really, really good chili. He also makes fresh salsa and puts it in this amazing breakfast burrito.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought on sudden changes for the Boyd’s business. They went from seeing steady, regular business to being on the receiving end of the national toilet paper rush that occurred at the start of the pandemic. The store briefly shut down and reopened with six-foot social distancing grids on the floor, new cleaning protocols, and they secured the EBT payment option so more people had access to critical supplies. 

When asked if they had any regrets leaving the corporate world behind to pursue business ownership, both Dennis and Valere say no. Valere adds, “My big issue is I just wanted to be in a community of people that look like us so that they can see that there are opportunities for entrepreneurship. We’re right across the street from a school, so when the kids come to get snacks they can see [us doing]something positive.”