How Dane County’s new order is disproportionately affecting Black business owners

'Most of our businesses are small, and they have limited capacity'

MADISON, Wis. — As many Dane County businesses move into the next phase of reopening, other small business owners, Black owners specifically, are stuck in the past. Their spaces can’t accommodate 75% capacity and social distancing… and that’s not their only challenge.

“We just want our customers back,” said Marilyn Harper, owner of Happily Ever After boutique, a children’s resale shop on Madison’s west side. “Our business is open, but our business is struggling.”

Harper says more than half of her customers are grandparents, and the rest are parents with young children: two groups that have been cautiously quarantined during the pandemic.

“We’re only doing 25% of what our sales used to be,” she explained.

While one year has gone by, only three months of revenue has come in for Harper. And she is certainly not alone.

A recent H&R Block survey of nearly 3,000 small businesses found that 53% of Black owners saw their revenue drop by half since last April, compared to 37% of white owners.

RELATED: ‘Am I going to be next?’: Madison’s Black business owners worry about their futures as more restaurants, stores close

Camille Carter, president of Madison’s Black Chamber of Commerce, says she has no doubt locals want to support the city’s more than 400 Black-owned businesses and non-profits, but capacity limits and the inability to socially distance have made that difficult.

“We all as a community are trying to do better,” she said. “I know people are trying to make decisions more strategically. We continue to get inquiries about Black-owned businesses, Black service providers, Black restaurants, and we’re trying to match opportunities with entrepreneurs.”

On Thursday, May 6, the Black Chamber will celebrate seven Black-owned businesses that have shown resiliency during its Virtual Black Business Showcase. Since the event is online, Carter is encouraging everyone to order curbside pickup from Black-owned restaurants.

RELATED: 26 black-owned food businesses to support in and around Madison

“It will be another tough year,” she said. “It’s not over.”

How you can help:

Spread the word about shopping small and minority-owned by sharing the name of a local Black-owned business with a friend.

Click here for a complete list of the more than 400 Black-owned businesses in Madison.