Small businesses have been the staple of the community and support system for the South L.A. economy. Black-owned business is a pillar for the Black community as it shows the grit and survival skills of Black people not only in the civil sense but also in the financial and business sense. Hanks Mini Market set the example of why having lasting Black business in South L.A. impacts how the youth view their community and hopes of changing it.
The market has been a part of the neighborhood for over 20 years, during which time Kelli Jackson’s father, Hank, became a fixture of the community. “I watched my dad help so many people and families over the years with his generous heart and listening ear that provided advice and encouragement when needed,” Jackson says. “Over time, we have grown with the community. We have seen generations grow up, we know our customers’ names, and everyone knows our family.”
Hank”s Mini Market is located in the Hyde Park area in South L.A. and is now being run by his daughter, Kelli Jackson, after she returned to work for the family business after pursuing a career in art.
“Coming from a background of public art, where we discussed how art can enhance communities, bring a sense of belonging, and reimagine places and spaces, I began questioning what a corner store could be,” Jackson said. Upon her return, Jackson joined the L.A. Food Policy Council, the local arts community, and, now, the national restaurant chain Sweetgreen, which is pursuing a vision that combines healthy food and community empowerment.
Before taking over the business, Jackson noticed that small businesses and Black businesses in particular were less noticeable because of the big fast food chains taking over. “I wasn’t seeing businesses invest in the area. We see a lot of fast-food chains and 7-Elevens, but no safe spaces for the kids, and no access to healthy food. I wanted to continue my dad’s legacy, but incorporate more of who I am, using art and food to inspire and uplift the community.”
Jackson’s partnership with the L.A. Food Policy Council helped push her efforts for change in the community and helped her vision of Hanks Mini Market come to fruition. “We are creating a healthy market and a community hub, a place for food demos and panel discussions, and a place where local artists and entrepreneurs can share their stories within our neighborhood, but our old space couldn’t accommodate those things.
After two years on the council, Jackson also gained the support of the food chain, Sweetgreen after they collaborated to help build the new facilities for Hank Mini Market. “ This partnership made a vision I had for years come true faster than I could have imagined,” Jackson says. “It’s one thing to have a vision and another to implement it. I realized quickly that I couldn’t do this all alone. Sweetgreen was the missing link to bring the vision to life. Since day one, they have opened their hearts and business to Hank’s.”
In addition to helping build the new facility Sweetgreen, as also supplied Hanks with a new inventory overhaul focusing on making locally grown, fresh produce available at accessible prices, they also offered mentorship to Jackson on how to run a business. “As we grow to become a healthy, sustainable business, we can inspire and help our community and neighborhood become healthy as well. I feel blessed and grateful for the team that surrounded us to bring something new and fresh to our Hyde Park community.”
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