Home Customized jerseys Real Black Friday trade show draws thousands of shoppers to Tower City Center during NBA All-Star Weekend (photos)

Real Black Friday trade show draws thousands of shoppers to Tower City Center during NBA All-Star Weekend (photos)


CLEVELAND, Ohio – Local Business Initiative Real Black Friday (TRBF) offers more than just an expo this weekend. At Saturday’s event at the Tower City Center, the focus was on light shopping, but the festival atmosphere also included live music, a fashion show and other activities.

The show continues Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. as the NBA All-Star weekend comes to a close.

The expo got off to a good start with thousands of attendees flocking to the mall. Men and women from more than 100 black-owned businesses in northeast Ohio were stationed in Tower City, covering every type of business. You can find fashion accessories, personal trainers, snacks, credit unions, candles, bath products, wellness centers, gyms and more. KeyBank, the presenting sponsor, gave away free merchandise.

Many stalls have also incorporated basketball themes into their offerings. Basketball-shaped cake pops were available at one stand, while jersey-shaped koozies were available at another.

TRBF’s exhibition drew huge crowds to Tower City, at all levels of the building, for a unique, community-driven shopping experience.

Natika Polk, owner of plus-size women’s boutique The Curve Vault, runs her business online and through pop-ups like TRBF’s trade show. Polk said she first got involved with the event in 2018 and returned for 2022 due to the success she had enjoyed before.

“It’s a great event,” Polk said. “It gives a chance to spotlight many small black businesses that otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to be spotlighted.”

The event began in 2015, when organizer and founder of TRBF, LaRese Purnell, created the small business support event. The exposure has grown over the years, eventually landing its biggest year in Tower City during NBA All-Star Weekend.

On Saturday, Kyerra Herbin was working at a booth with her mother, Kelly, owner of Wristwerk Custom. The company creates single bracelets, as well as stacked versions with two or more bracelets combined.

“There were a lot of customers, incoming and outgoing,” Herbin said. “We are doing pretty well. It’s going really well.

The lifestyle company House of B&J Collection took part in the TRBF fair for the first time this year. Named after the initials of owner Aisha Midgett’s late grandmothers, the brand aims to provide positivity-focused products for black women.

“I went through a tough transition last year, where I felt invisible, unmotivated, unappreciated. I felt like I had no purpose,” Midgett said. “I feel like the women in general, but women who look like me, talk like me, can feel the same way. I wanted to offer a space that really offered autonomy, encouragement and motivation.

Midgett said the experience prompted her to seek retail space at other upcoming events.

“I think it’s really amazing to just be in an atmosphere like this, which is so liberating, so encouraging,” Midgett said. “I think it’s a good opportunity to network and give back to the community. That’s what it’s about.

TRBF has set impressive goals for the exhibition, aiming to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on various businesses. Based on the thousands of shoppers flocking to Tower City on Saturday afternoon, that lofty goal seems achievable.

Find more information about the event at therealblackfriday.com.

See more photos from Saturday’s event in the gallery at the top of the article.