Angel Gregorio, a serial entrepreneur and Howard University alum, has launched the first-ever Black-owned strip mall in Washington, DC with affordable commercial space specifically for other Black women business owners.
In December 2021, Gregorio bought a 7,500-square-foot commercial property worth $1 million to expand her business The Spice Suite. The property looked dilapidated but she saw the potential to develop it into something that would benefit a lot of emerging local businesses.
Gregorio, who is a former school principal, has always wanted to make a positive impact in the community. She changed careers and opened The Spice Suite in 2015 to provide unique and special spice blends despite having no culinary background. Eventually, it evolved into a dream incubator for women that allows them to sell products in the shop for free.
Since then, Gregorio has hosted nearly 500 free pop-up shops for Black business owners, proving to be a go-to for small business incubation. As its reach continues to grow, The Spice Suite outgrew its first location, prompting Gregorio to move to a bigger one.
After over a year since buying the run-down property and remodeling it, Gregorio launched Black and Forth, a first-of-its-kind strip mall in Washington, DC that uses shipping containers to serve as commercial spaces. Now with a larger area, she created a new destination not just for The Spice Suite, but also for other businesses such as hair, brow, nail, and waxing salons.
Moreover, Gregorio aims to support and empower more businesses through commercial spaces, especially in cities like D.C. where the rent prices continue to increase unreasonably.
“I want this to become the model,” she shared during her ribbon-cutting ceremony, according to AfroTech. “I want to be able to consult for free and talk to other people on how to do this in your city, in your quadrant, so this becomes the standard of how we care for each other and how we show up for community.”
The strip mall is located at 2201 Channing St NE, Washington, DC 20018.