By TJ Dunnivantcollaborating writer
If you grew up in the 4th Ward (Emerald Hills, Webster, Chollas View, etc.) or raised a family there, you knew Thrifty Mall/Mall. The center is nostalgic for our black community as it housed Wrigley’s, The San Diego Voice and Viewpoint newspaper, the Black Chamber of Commerce, the Roundtable, and the old FedCo building. Some remember when FedCo closed around 1984 and Fam Mart took up residence in space around 1985.
Fam Mart became the hub of our community and at first the majority of sellers were Asian and the majority of buyers were black. After some public complaints in 1991, our black community boycotted Fam Mart due to disrespectful treatment by vendor owners. Retail space today is only half of what it used to be and a black family, the Bookers, are trying to make it ‘for us by us’ by leasing much of the space and making it available to other black sellers.
“I go back a long way with San Diego’s voice and point of viewWrigley’s and other companies that were here,” exclaimed Mr. Dwayne Booker of DLBooker Enterprise, “I’m trying to keep our business here [in this community]. We don’t want to go out; so we appreciate all the support we can get!
We only spoke to Mr. Booker briefly on the phone last week, and most of the DLBooker Enterprise story was told to us by his daughter, Zienia (Z) Booker on July 30. “My dad started this business 20 years ago after retiring from a business that designed airplane interiors,” Z proudly explained. were at the Kolby Swapmeet.”
Z’s energy is full of light, aspiration and compassion for her black community and her potential growth with her family’s business. She credits her father for teaching her the “gift of small talk” and including her in the learning process of being a small business. Z tells us that his mom and dad, Linda and Dwayne Booker are the backbone of DLBooker Enterprise.
With a jovial spirit, Z reminisces about the early days when they were one of the first to start a website with GoDaddy. She said it was a time when images for each item took ten minutes to load and the phone line was jammed while they did. “We are updating the site,” they would tell friends and family. “Don’t call us in the next few hours.” We laughed together thinking about the slow, archaic technology of the past and what it took to be a small business owner before everything was a click away.
According to Zienia, the family history of DLBooker Enterprise is a start-up story in itself. From the swapmeet on the very first day, they had to ask the lady in front of them to help them put up the pop-up tent. It wasn’t long before they went from one tent to five tents. Sales started slowly but together as a family they found courses that would teach them how to get someone’s attention in 15 seconds.
After a while, they became the loudest seller at the swapmeet, and their colorful men’s button-up shirts were selling out on the shelves. Apparently they were only $15. $10 less than the exact shirt sold at the men’s warehouse across the street. Z said she wouldn’t be the businesswoman she is today if her dad hadn’t taken her to business classes and taught her how to get over her shyness.
When the Bookers moved their business to Fam Mart, they acquired a 20 X 20 space. At that time, the complex was called the San Diego Marketplace. The former Fam Mart establishment moved to 54th and University and conducted business from this mall. Sometime after Bookers moved to SD MarketPlace and began to acquire more space, Fam Mart returned and recovered.
It seems the owners were honest with the Bookers about the story. Contrary to other opinions, the Bookers decided to continue frequenting the complex. They’re now renting out the entire back half of the warehouse, which equates to roughly ten to fifteen 20×20 spaces. The Bookers want to partner with more black vendors to get their businesses in.
As of now, they’ve rented the kitchen to a black-owned restaurant called “Crav’n Crab Cakes.” They’ve also used some of the space to open a hair salon with stations and have hired stylists and a nail salon that’s about to open with chairs and tubs already in place. There are plenty more spaces for any other black-owned shops, business owners or artists who want to collaborate with the Bookers. The location has great potential to one day be what it once was, but with a touch more class.
The Bookers also give back to the community by offering GPA discounts to high school kids who need prom or graduation attire, and formerly incarcerated men who need clothes for their next interview or job. Z mentioned that giving back is important to his family because they know God will bless them in return. According to Z, the whole family puts God first before any move they make and all credit for their success goes to the man above due to their unwavering belief in what HE can do for them.
God was most definitely present the afternoon we visited, and it brought an extra sense of peace and light to the environment that was nothing like the old Fam Mart vibes. Now the atmosphere is peaceful and welcoming and many members of our community will be able to enjoy the comfortable atmosphere.
For now, the Bookers have huge hopes and dreams that Fam Mart will once again become a bustling place for the black community. They continue to invest and buy more space for other black-owned businesses to join and create wider collaboration within the complex.
They would like some help spreading the word or organizing events that will bring crowds back to the venue and to the community. Zenia hopes the current business will one day grow into a full mall for recycled black dollars. But for now, customers can come and relax, enjoy and buy home decor, sassy printed t-shirts, colorful fascinators, scarves, black beauty products and hair care, clothes and a section men’s collection of suits, shoes, socks, hats and haute couture dresses. shirts. If you haven’t been to the Fam Mart in a while, it’s time to come check it out and see what DLBooker Enterprises has to offer.