By John W. Davis
INGLEWOOD — When you walk inside the Body Butter Lady storefront along the 300 block of South Market Street, you can’t help but enjoy the aroma. The fragrance of organic homemade bath and beauty products permeates the store, which opened in May.
This is Marianne Ndiaye’s first attempt at a physical location, although she’s been perfecting her all-natural craft since 2003, by working the local farmer’s market and festival scene.
Holiday promotions like Black Friday and — more importantly, Small Business Saturday — are vital for local businesses like Ndiaye’s.
“It’s essential,” she said. “It’s like the heart and the lungs of any business is the Christmas holiday season. If the holidays are not good … the rest of the year, we’re just trying to survive,”
Ndiaye, a native of Senegal, moved from West Africa to the U.S. in 2002.
“This is my first storefront,” she said. “It was a long time coming. I’ve been wanting a store for a while but the rents are very high and also the [previous] locations weren’t that ideal for me. I looked for almost a year before I found this place actually.”
Ndiaye said she is hoping to make about 20 percent of her annual sales during the holiday season.
Meanwhile, along Market Street’s four-block main-street-style corridor, there are several vacant storefronts with for lease signs prominently displayed. Some business owners who lease retail spaces on Market Street have reported rent increases of 15 percent by new landlords.
On the Body Butter Lady’s block, where a few neighboring storefronts are vacant, a lack of foot traffic is a challenge. So the Body Butter Lady has turned to social media marketing via Instagram to encourage her 1,000-plus followers to shop at her Market Street location.
However, to make ends meet, Ndiaye still works the weekly Culver City and Crenshaw Farmer’s Markets and ships online to supplement in-person business.
Ndiaye’s storefront also doubles as her creation kitchen, where she crafts soap, scrubs, body butter, deodorant and beard oil amongst other hand-made products.
She believes Market Street is the right location for right now and the future.
“I always wanted it to be in Inglewood,” she said. “I live in Inglewood. I have fun in Inglewood. I love Inglewood and I think that as a black person, if we don’t do it in our community, who’s going to do it.”
Market Street is only one mile away from the new Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District that will house the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers football teams.
“I’ve seen growth,” shared Aquila Gulley, who has spent the past four years working as a customer service fashion consultant at the Chic And Curvy Boutique on South Market Street.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are more than 30 million small businesses in the United States. Last year on Small Business Saturday, an estimated 108 million consumers nationwide “shopped small,” spending a combined $15.4 billion at independent neighborhood retailers and restaurants.
“Not as a big of a turnout as I would have anticipated (on Small Business Saturday) but we do still have our regulars and our frequent shoppers and a lot of new people also,” Gulley said. “We did advertise for it to make sure that as many people knew about it as possible. We’re seeing a good flow00\\, I’m not disappointed at all.”
However, Market Street businesses believe they can set themselves apart from the competition by concentrating on customer service.
“Trying to make sure that we have the best styles, that there is not much competition that can compete with what we carry and then making sure that we have enough to cover the traffic that we possibly with have,” Gulley shared on the importance of sales during the holiday season.
Meanwhile, for the Body Butter Lady, there’s no place like Inglewood.
“I come from the principal that we have to recycle the black dollar,” Ndiaye said. I have to be in Inglewood because most of my customers are black people, so I have to be in the community. I found this place, the price was right … and the location is big enough for me to get all my vision out, so that was like a match made in heaven,” Ndiaye concluded before encouraging consumers to “shop small” every Saturday this holiday season.