Black Voices in Childrenswear: Anthony Bryant

Anthony Bryant, owner of Little Nomad in Richmond, VA, shares how he’s navigating a time of challenges and change.

Owner Anthony Bryant in front of his children’s store Little Nomad.

How are you doing? We’re doing okay. I am in much better spirits now than this time last week. The last few days have restored my optimistic outlook for Richmond, VA. I can best describe our business right now as organized confusion. We are online, as well as having our brick-and-mortar, and that’s been crucial for our business. We came up with some creative ideas to drive traffic to our site, and it’s seemed to resonate with our customers.

How has the pandemic impacted your business? The pandemic, like almost every other small business, forced us to close our doors. We are still closed, but are in no rush to jump back in. When we head back, we want to make absolutely sure that it’s safe for folks to be out and about. We also have a responsibility to have a proper safety plan implemented in our shop that can be executed on a consistent basis for the foreseeable future.

What are some of the pros and cons to being strictly online for now? As a veteran of running retail brick-and-mortar shops, the pandemic allowed me the time to really dig into online business. I’ve honed in on consistent email marketing, as well as how and what we share on social media. We’ve also had to make shifts in our inventory purchasing. Being more thoughtful about what families are going through in their day-to-day lives has driven what we’re currently ordering.

What actions have you taken in regard to Black Lives Matter? I’m the vice president of the Richmond Arts District located in Jackson Ward. This is the area that our shop is located in and where protests Friday through Sunday occurred. We are using this as a time to retell the story of Jackson Ward, which is a very important area in regard to American history. We are not planning to sweep the events under the rug, but rather highlight them and how they weave into the fabric of this multilayered area. Our focus will be on storytelling, murals and possibly statues.

How did you respond to the looting and vandalism in your area? Saturday morning, I headed to Broad Street to check things out. After seeing many historic black-owned businesses vandalized and looted, I decided to board up my shop. I had so many folks asking to help me. Four of us got it boarded up quickly. As some storefronts who were boarded up had their wood pulled off and looted, we were fortunate to have only a few tags on our boards. The protesting lasted until about 5 a.m. Sunday morning. Getting very little sleep and with more protests planned for Sunday evening, we decided to head down and take all of the inventory out of our store. When we arrived, it was incredible to see so many people from the community and surrounding areas helping all the small businesses with clean-up efforts. All of our inventory is now at our home, and we continue to fulfill orders from there.

Any other noteworthy actions by fellow business owners? As a black business owner, I’ve been blown away by the responses and reactions from a lot of my fellow shop owners on Broad Street, who suffered far more damage than us. These owners came out and made sure everyone knew that the real story is about the protests and not broken glass, graffiti or stolen items. This solidarity is what makes our shopping area so special and stand out from most. I also appreciate the words and actions of Disco Panda Kids and Mochi Kids. These companies have shared solid resources with folks who are ready to listen and learn. They are also using their dollars to donate to organizations focused on eliminating systemic racism and they’ve encouraged their own customers to shop at a black owned business instead of their own.

What might you be optimistic about going forward? I’m optimistic about real change occurring in different facets of life for black and brown people. I’m typing this while listening to the Governor of Virginia give a speech to let everyone know that racist monuments will be coming down very soon. As I said before, I think this is a great opportunity we have to get folks to notice the Arts District and the important role it plays in Richmond’s history. Because of the cornerstones that we’ve built Little Nomad upon, I do believe we have an opportunity to grow and reach a broader audience.

What’s your biggest takeaway from all this? 2020 has been an extraordinary year. Little Nomad turns three in July, and we’re experiencing our second major shut down. In a weird way, we were prepared for this moment. I own a kids’ store, and I have two kids that I have to talk honestly with all the time about our world. Little Nomad was created as a space where all can feel welcome because on too many occasions, I have not felt that. We do this with our product selection, the events that we put on, and who we donate to. I will continue to urge parents and caregivers to talk with their little ones now about how life is for others. The things humans can accomplish when we are laser-focused and on the same page can be world-changing.


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