How Project Row Houses is helping small businesses grow

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Saturday, June 18, 2022
How Project Row Houses is helping small businesses launch
From a black-owned comic book shop to a book store that celebrates black authors, see how Project Row Houses is helping businesses grow in the Third Ward!

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- For almost 30 years, Project Row Houses has served as a catalyst for change in the Third Ward. Not only has the non-profit transformed abandoned homes into socially-engaged art exhibits, it's enriching the community and helping small businesses get off the ground.

Project Row Houses' Incubator program provides mentorship opportunities, physical space and other resources to aspiring entrepreneurs and artists. That includes Kindred Stories, a bookstore located on Project Row Houses' campus. When owner Terri Hamm first decided to start a bookstore, her young daughter was the inspiration.

"My daughter Elle, she's always gravitated towards stories that speak to the diversity of blackness, and girls that look like her," said Hamm. "She didn't have a space where she could go herself and explore all of the beautiful black-authored works that do exist on the market."

Hamm first started Kindred Stories as an online bookstore.

"Kindred Stories is a bookstore fully committed to supporting and amplifying the voices of black authors and artisans," she said. "We got this beautiful opportunity to open our location here at Project Row Houses. Since then the business has really just exploded. We have customers coming from all over Houston. We get customers from all over the country that come."

Byron Canady also opened his comic book store, Gulf Coast Cosmos Comics, with the help of Project Row Houses.

"As a comic book reader since I was eight, I've always had a love of comic books," Canady said. "You ask any nerd, they will tell you, my fantasy is to own a comic book shop."

He first started selling his comic book store online during the pandemic, then started doing pop-ups.

"On the corner of Elgin and Emancipation we had a six month pop-up residency," said Canady. "As soon as people realized there was a black-owned comic book shop on the corner, it went from that one pop up every other week to four days a week, and now this."

Gulf Coast Cosmos Comics, a block from Emancipation Park, has a collection that's hard to find anywhere else.

"We feature a lot of comic books that highlight and celebrate individuals who have typically been disenfranchised," said Canady. "Black comic book creators, characters, as well as publications that also highlight and support minorities."

All Real Radio also found a home, thanks to Project Row Houses' incubator program.

"It really helped us to be able to start, being able to provide a space for us," said Deniz Lopez, co-founder and owner of All Real Radio. "If we would have gone anywhere else, it would have been a whole lot of money."

The online radio station is always live, around the clock.

"We play a mix of soul, hip hop and R&B," said Lopez. "We also have several shows that showcase all different viewpoints in the city.We provide a space for events, for cultural happenings and for the world to know what Third Ward Houston is all about."

"Lots of people that we talk to, they want to know about the Incubator program," said co-owner Drew Evans. "They're surprised because they see they a row house, they come in and they see an actual radio station behind the doors."

Crumbville Bakery is just down the street on Emancipation Avenue.

"I specialize in cookies, brownies and stuffed cups," said owner Ella Russell. "Stuffed cups are my signature cupcakes. They're cupcakes that have one of my signature cupcakes baked on the inside."

Russell was thrilled when Project Row Houses first offered her the opportunity to do pop-ups with her bakery, then helped her find a physical space.

"The way that my business has grown has been like from literally me selling treats out of my trunk to having a storefront," said Russell. "This gave me an opportunity to be stable, so people had a place to come to during a specific time. Not only the people who came to visit the art exhibits for Project Row Houses, but also people who frequent the neighborhood because of its cultural roots and its artistic roots."

For more information on Project Row Houses' Incubation program, click here.