Willowbrook brewery owners offer ways to support Black-owned businesses
August is National Black Business Month, and the passion and support for Black-owned businesses -- from suburban Chicago and throughout Illinois -- has never been more apparent or more important.
As one of the few Black-owned craft breweries in the industry, we've seen firsthand how the racial justice movement has sparked renewed support for Black-owned businesses. Like other small businesses, we've struggled to adapt to the new economic reality brought on by the pandemic. But, through it all, we've stayed optimistic, thanks to our fans, loyal customers and even complete strangers on Facebook and Instagram who urged people to support our DuPage County brewery, Black Horizon Brewing Company.
These calls for support and action were both timely and important, particularly against the backdrop of extended stay-at-home orders. And the economic struggle isn't over. Black-owned businesses throughout the Chicago area are crucial to our local economies, and it's not hyperbole to say that, now more than ever, a single purchase from a local business makes a difference.
We have momentum now, and we risk losing it if we don't act decisively to support the area's Black-owned businesses. So, in the spirit of the month, here are a few small steps every suburban resident can take to support and celebrate the community's Black businesses:
Buy a Beer
This month, Black Horizon Brewing Company joins more than 1,000 breweries around the world in brewing "Black is Beautiful," a global collaboration beer designed to raise awareness of the injustices people of color face on a daily basis. Participating breweries each craft their own take on the beer, with 100% of the proceeds going to local organizations supporting equality and inclusion efforts. Here in Willowbrook, you will find an 8.7% Rye & Oat Imperial Stout on draft and in cans, with proceeds benefiting By the Hand to help children in under-resourced areas on Chicago's south and west sides. Neighboring breweries Skeleton Key (Woodridge), Noon Whistle (Lombard) and Misktatonic (Darien) are among 30+ Illinois breweries participating in the collaboration.
Seek out Black businesses
When the social justice movement first took off, Black Horizon was tagged often in social media posts encouraging folks to visit Black-owned breweries and restaurants. While that type of activity has slowed, just this week Facebook and Instagram released a feature allowing businesses to designate as Black-owned. I encourage everyone to look for that designation, and actively seek out and support local Black-owned businesses in their neighborhoods.
Amplify positive experiences
With more people heading online to make purchases and order food and beverage, sharing your support with your network is more critical than ever. Whether it's a positive review, an Instagram Story, or forwarding a newsletter from your favorite restaurant, brewery or retail location, create some noise by sharing your experiences at local shops. Every post helps.
Contact your legislators
While businesses need your support through purchases and reviews, we also need your voice. During this unprecedented moment in our society and economy, small businesses -- Black-owned and otherwise -- are relying on the government to stay afloat. Your voice makes a difference, so consider reaching out to Sen. Durbin, Sen. Duckworth and Rep. Casten and asking them to insist swift progress is made toward future relief packages that help small business owners during this trying time.
Our hope is that, for the remainder of Black Business Month and far beyond, residents from the Northwest to the South Suburbs will come together to support and celebrate our communities' Black businesses, helping them meet these unprecedented challenges with an unprecedented response.
• Charles St. Clair, Kevin Baldus and Alex Stankus are the owners of Black Horizon Brewing Company in Willowbrook.