The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with a plummet in our economy, has reinforced a need to support minority and Black-owned businesses that have experienced closures at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts.
By supporting more Black-owned businesses, we are helping create opportunities for property ownership, generational wealth and credit building, all while encouraging financial literacy, and ultimately the right kind of economic growth that promotes equitable workplaces.
The Creative Theory Agency, through its new brick and mortar Gift Shop, aims to address all of the above as it relates to the nation’s capital.
Before this new storefront in Union Market opened on February 6, the Creative Theory Agency existed as an award-winning marketing firm co-founded by Tamon George and Gary Williams, Jr.
Tamon and Gary compiled an exceptional team that became a powerhouse of individuals enthusiastically prepared to help Black entrepreneurs tell their story and execute their marketing strategy. Like other creative agencies, the Creative Theory Agency offers a variety of services related to marketing and advertising. However, now that they have created a space with Gift Shop, the District’s first multi-retail store solely focused on local Black-owned brands, Tamon and Gary are better able to create economic opportunities for Black-owned brands.
In an interview, Tamon explained, “…we asked ourselves if every square inch of this space needed to belong to the Creative Theory Agency. No it did not. That’s when it became about placemaking and providing economic opportunity to other people.”
When Tamon and Gary entered this industry, they experienced firsthand the obstacles that people of color encountered as they watched others make the strategic decisions, knowing they were more than capable of doing so.
“Gary and I started seeing the same issues from the creative space…people of color were being called to be creative executors, and while that’s a good thing, they were also getting a smaller piece of the pie because someone else is making all of the campaign and strategic decisions,” Tamon said.
“We knew we had the capabilities to make a lot of those decisions, create our own seat at the table, and drive things the way that we wanted to drive them,” Tamon added.
Ultimately, the agency ended up fueling its physical space. Having these two separate, but related, entities in the same building now allows for a larger reach.
Tamon mentioned that because many of the retailers in the store are established online, the Gift Shop is innovative in the way that it provides a space for an amazing brand experience. Its impact fundamentally changes the consumer shopping and educational experience. “The work that we were doing required us to really understand what it meant to drive community, opportunity, inclusivity, and representation,” he said.
“Those are the conversations that we have every day with some of the biggest companies in the world. Having been around those types of conversations and the intentionality that it takes to make an impact, we ultimately understand that we are not immune from being impact makers in our community,” Tamon added. “Whatever we have, there is still enough there to make an impact in our community and challenge the systems that exist already.”
Tamon and Gary see the importance of challenging existing systems that aren’t made for people of color. That’s why they’ve focused on proper placemaking and economic opportunity, not only for the agency, but the community. When gauging future partnerships, they look to those who are prepared to heighten the impact and expand the mission of economically creating equality and opportunity for Black-owned businesses.
It’s evident that The Gift Shop goes far beyond simply being a storefront. As retail partners constantly change, you can witness an evolving brand experience while learning about and supporting new Black entrepreneurs and businesses. Through this, The Gift Shop is creating long-lasting, inclusive cultural narratives.
Be sure to stop by the Gift Shop in Union Market at 1258 Fourth St. NE, Wednesday to Sunday from 11 AM to 6 PM to shop with Mobilebutik, Journacy, Riveriswild, Black Pepper Paperie Co., and other Black-owned brands.