Black Businesses in Forest Hills: The 1% of the 2%
Published: July 23rd, 2020 at 1:16PM E.T
By: Victoria Agwam
Read about Misfits Nutrition & The Wine Room of Forest Hills, the two black businesses in Forest Hills, Queens
Source: Misfits Nutrition Facebook Post
Of the 100+ local restaurants that line the streets of Forest Hills, New York, a vibrant and iconic neighborhood in Queens, you will find, like in many other NYC neighborhoods, a dearth of black-owned businesses. This is a common sighting considering that only 2.1% of NYC business owners are Black, despite Black people accounting for 22% of the city’s population. In Forest Hills where Blacks make up only 3.1% of the population, I was surprised to discover only two black-owned hospitality businesses ( <1%) in this community.
Despite the hardships brought on by COVID-19, of which has been especially detrimental on black businesses resulting in the loss of 40% of black businesses nationally, these two Forest Hills businesses have continued to operate successfully. By exploring the stories of Anthony Oll-adikankwu Jr. of MisFits Nutrition, and Tina and Donovan Sinclair of The Wine Room of Forest Hills, we can learn more about the Black business ownership experience and of their methods of success.
Anthony opened MisFits Nutrition, a nutrition-based shop that sells a wide variety of shakes, teas, and protein bowls in April of 2018. During the day he runs the shop, but during the night he also maintains his previous job as a nurse. Working on the frontline during a pandemic and managing a business is no easy job, but Anothony’s resilience and drive allow him to do so.
“As a nurse dealing with COVID-19 patients, I know what nurses are going through,” Anthony said. “They’re taking care of other people, and can’t take care of themselves.” During the peak of the pandemic, Anthony used public donations to deliver drinks to frontline workers, in hopes that they would give them the power to keep moving. The donations helped his business stand afoot while also serving his community.
His gratuitous and positive attitude also manifests in his customer service. Anthony prides himself on valuing his customers. He welcomes customers with grand gestures and claps, always trying to invoke positive responses. “I want people to leave feeling better than when they walked in,” Anthony said.
Source:Misfits Nutrition Instagram Post
Similar sentiments about the importance of customer service were also shared by Tina Sinclair, the co-owner of The Wine Room. She hopes that when her customers leave, they’ve learned something. “Our number one priority is customer service,” Tina explained. “You may not have the greatest product, but a customer will come back if they feel like you treated them like gold.”
Toni and Donovan Sinlacair moved to NYC after previously operating in Toronto, Canada. They entered the liquor industry to further their love for wine. The Wine Room was opened in 2005 by an Italian couple, and after another exchange in ownership, they started running the place in 2014. “We’re not known to be wine suppliers,” explains Tina, but their ability to successfully transition to ownership came about because they were able to master their craft. Tina emphasized that “It’s a specialty neighborhood,” so if you don’t know your craft, your unfamiliarity, no matter how slight, will get the best of you. “Master your craft, that’s the only way you can succeed.”
For both owners, operating their business has definitely not been a walk in the park; they’ve both encountered their challenges. For example, dealing with less than gracious customers. Tina remembers, “I had one lady come in and say ‘Oh, the neighborhood is really changing’, I told her well change is good.” Anthony also recalled one person handing out flyers stating “You’ll be closed in two months, every business that opens here closes within 2 months, ” Anthony responded “I don’t need luck, I just need to work hard,” giving a big smile back.
They’ve continued to use their grit and positivity to overcome, as local businesses all around American work to do the same. Tina and Anthony both expressed their hopes that their local community will continue to support them. “It doesn’t take much to shout out your favorite local business,” Anthony notes. Small businesses have taken a hard hit due to COVID, so now more than ever it’s important we support local establishments. As Tina asserted, “to uplift your community, support your community first.”
As the public continues to show love and support to black owned-businesses with great zeal on a national scale in the midst of the rise of the BLM movement, it is also pertinent to note that this is a continuous effort. We must put our money where our mouth is by making conscious decisions to support local businesses and or black businesses.