NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – While many indoor shopping malls are dying off, Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) sees potential in the Patrick Henry Mall for the future.
“This mall is like an incubator, it is like an accelerator,” Youngkin said Thursday afternoon, during a tour coordinated by Newport News Commissioner of the Revenue Tiffany Boyle to mark Black Business Month.
On a national level about one in 10 businesses are minority owned. Management says more than half of the local businesses here in Patrick Henry are owned by minorities, and the mall is thriving, not just surviving, at a time when indoor malls are largely dying.
Youngkin got a firsthand look. He stopped at Lina Guede’s Thread Impressions. She has been a merchant here for more than 20 years and this is her second business.
“I’m glad because he can see what we really do. It’s a local business, all minority-owned, so he knows what we are doing, working every day so hard making it happen,” she said.
Youngkin then wove his way through shoppers to get to City On My Chest. The T-shirt and apparel store was the dream of Newport News native and former NFL scout Tommy Reamon, Jr.
Youngkin says he sees a greater sense of community here than in other malls.
“I think there’s something special here. and what you hear (about) the success factor from these businesses is ‘the mall’,” Youngkin said.
But the merchants here want Youngkin to know that while they’re making a go of it in today’s economy, they can’t go it alone.
“I can use help with how to expand my business, and with different resources that might be available for a small minority business,” said Yvette Robinson, owner of Mere Words and Experessions, specializing in African and African-American art and other furnishings. She said finding capital is difficult, and “the pandemic was not very friendly to us”.
Youngkin says he’s listening.
“One of the things that I’ll go back and really work on is how do we in fact work with local capital accumulation with potentially some support from the state, and figure out how we can make access to capital a little easier.”
The governor said he’s heard stories about entrepreneurs maxing out their credit cards to launch their businesses.
“We can do better than that,” Youngkin said.