Outpouring of support for black-owned business as people call for change

SEATTLE — At Central Café and Juice Bar in the Central District, owner Bridgette Johnson is seeing a lot of new faces.

“We are experiencing an uptick,” Johnson said.

Days of demonstrations against systemic racism and calls for social change have people seeking other ways to support the black community. It’s also spurred calls to support black-owned businesses.

“Now with everything going on, I think people are making a really good effort to check them out and see what they have available,” Johnson explained.

“Watching everything unfolding as a black man is very emotional,” said David Combs.

Combs co-owns Tacoma’s The Tshirt Men Company with his brother. The two aren’t afraid to speak up and even have a shirt available for order, that says “Please, I can’t breathe” as a reference to George Floyd.

“Me and my brother have been adamant about being vocal about our position when it comes to social justice, politics,” Combs added. “ We’re not afraid to say how we feel through our business.”

The custom printing apparel company has been around since 2014. In the last few days, it’s been gaining more visibility.

“We get a lot of support already from our community, but the extra voices we've heard, we're getting tagged in more posts than we have before,” Combs said.

For Johnson, who just opened the cafe at the beginning of the year — in a black-owned building, right around the corner from Garfield High School, where she attended, and in the neighborhood where she still lives — she knows the call for change isn’t easy. She hopes people will continue their support even after the demonstrations come to an end.

“We’re hoping they’re not just going to be one time customers. That’s what’s going to sustain small businesses,” Johnson said.