Improving Access for Small Businesses East of the River

A mobile kiosk known as “The Bridge Spot” offers Black small businesses a chance to rotate locations across Washington, D.C.

A small business kiosk is providing added visibility to Black-owned startups from east of the Anacostia River across Washington, D.C., as it hits the road for the very first time this summer.

Known as The Bridge Spot, this distinctive two-tone green mobile kiosk aims to provide visibility and improve marketing and sales for businesses in Wards 7 and 8, with an eye toward helping entrepreneurs build generational wealth. For Angela Chester-Johnson, Founder of the tea, spice and sauce shop Plum Good, The Bridge Spot also offers an opportunity to promote health and well-being across the District and beyond. 

“I created Plum Good to do something for other people intentionally and leave my community better than I found it,” says Chester-Johnson. “I work and live in Ward 8 and am really mindful of the health discrepancies in my community and the Black community at large. A lot of people don’t eat healthy because they don’t think it tastes as good or are in a hurry and need to eat quickly. My goal is to equip people with healthy recipes that they can make quickly and are still bomb tasting.”

Adults living east of the Anacostia River in Wards 7 and 8 — in which more than 91 percent of residents are Black — are disproportionately at risk for obesity and diabetes and roughly 40 percent of residents in Wards 7 and 8 are obese, compared to the 12.5 percent of residents in Ward 2 — a primarily white neighborhood. 

In Ward 8, there is only one full service grocery store serving over 80,000 residents. Comparatively, Ward 6 has 15 full service grocery stores serving 100,000 residents just across the Anacostia River. 

Chester-Johnson was selected alongside eight other founders who either reside or work in the Anacostia community to rotate through the kiosk at events across the city. 

“The Bridge Spot is helping me literally roll my brand around the city,” says Chester-Johnson. “I’ve gotten to visit so many events and meet the many different types of people who attend them. It has also really made me straighten up my technique and system because I learn something new from each situation, which has helped me focus on how to balance production and operations.”

Chester-Johnson (right) brought Plum Good to the Capital Pride Festival through The Bridge Spot in June 2023

The 11th Street Bridge Park (a partnership between the Ward 8 non-profit Building Bridges Across the River and the District government), created The Bridge Spot in tandem with the Anacostia Business Improvement District (Anacostia BID) to get a jumpstart on the impact of the forthcoming Bridge Park. Set to open in early 2026, the Bridge Park will be the first elevated park in the nation’s capital reconnecting long divided neighborhoods on either side of the Anacostia River. 

“The Bridge Spot is an opportunity to build the capacity of Black entrepreneurs well in advance of the park opening, so that these businesses will eventually be able to move around the park and be prepared to tap into the more than one million visitors we anticipate visiting each year,” says Scott Kratz, Senior Vice President of Building Bridges Across the River and Director of 11th Street Bridge Park. “This is an opportunity for each of these businesses to step up to the next level. The goal is to build generational wealth for east of the river Black entrepreneurs.”

This project leveraged partnerships with organizations including Capital One. The bank provided the majority of the overall project budget of $138,000, with additional funding donated by Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) DC. That funding supported the design and construction of The Bridge Spot to support Building Bridges’ efforts to help support financial well-being for individuals living east of the Anacostia River. Capital One will continue to support the programming for the Bridge Spot through 2023 and sponsor the kiosk at events. Other partners include Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), who is offering program support and Accenture, who is providing pro bono technical assistance to the entrepreneurs rotating through The Bridge Spot.

Capital One sponsored The Bridge Spot at the Capital Pride Festival in June 2023

“We’re proud to support the 11th Street Bridge Park’s efforts to make deep investments in DC’s community East of the River, especially nurturing small, local businesses which is a central part of Capital One’s mission,” says Jenn Flynn, Head of Small Business Bank at Capital One. “The research shows how critical the combination of support, funding, and educational resources are to boosting wealth generation and business longevity for Black entrepreneurs.”

Each month, from May to December, the kiosk will highlight one of the selected businesses to operate free of cost, and relocate to new destinations, including prominent locations like the Capital Pride Festival, the D.C. Jazz Festival, Eastern Market and the National Capital BBQ Battle

In addition to Plum Good, selected small businesses include: 

● Akua Tay, Connected to Culture 

● Sariane Leigh, Anacostia Yogi 

● Rhlinda Rhodes, Mane Rhodes Soap and Wellness 

● Shawnette Monroe, The Kitchen Physician 

● Katrina Norman, The Beautiful Brown Rainbow 

● Keisha Cofield, Blum Tea 

● Jacqueline Bush, JackiCan

“We’re thrilled to lift up and support our local small business owners to increase the skills, sales and capacity of the participating entrepreneurs from our community,” said Kristina Noell, Executive Director of the Anacostia BID. “By investing in the skills and support today, we can help foster strong local businesses of tomorrow who will be ready to serve local and visiting customers at the Bridge Park and beyond.”

Designed by the River East Design Center, the Bridge Spot is structured so that entrepreneurs can either sell goods through the front window or create a mobile shop for patrons to browse merchandise. To best incorporate the needs of small business owners throughout the design process, lead architect Anna McCorvey interviewed small business at a series of local markets and met with local entrepreneurs at the Capital One Café on Good Hope Road in Anacostia.

“We wanted the kiosk to highlight the different colors and textures of the homes and buildings throughout the neighborhoods east of the river,” says McCorvey, who recently joined Building Bridges as a Senior Equitable Event Development Manager. “That included using the vertical vocabulary of wood paneling that you see throughout the neighborhoods. There’s also laser cuts with steel artwork on the kiosk’s screens that includes imagery of the Big Chair, renderings of the park and river, and references to music and dancing that speaks to the energy that exists in this community and its love of music."

Regardless of where in the city the Bridge Spot travels, small businesses from east of the Anacostia River carry that culture and energy throughout.

“Just like a smile or good music, there’s no place in the world where people don’t appreciate a good meal,” says Chester-Johnson. “Great food is a way of bringing people together and a way of fostering some international understanding and appreciation. With the help of The Bridge Spot, Plum Good continues to bring the world together one kitchen at a time.”

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