This is last in our series about Black Unicorns in the Bay Area. The Black Unicorn is a Black business owner who is rare because they either the ONLY Black person in their industry in the entire country which we profiled here. Or they are the Only Black person in their industry in the Bay Area which we profiled here.
There is a heavy concentration of Black business owners in the food, beauty and fashion industries. So Blacks in other industries tend to get overlooked when people are seeking to support a Black owned business. So we created this series and the SFBayBlackBiz.com website to showcase the range of the different business owned by Black people.
The lack of access to capital dictates, in part, which industries Black people start business. If you don’t have the personal resources to get your business up and running, you pick businesses that are easy to get off the ground, but that are crowded with competition for similar products and services, and less opportunity for differentiation.
That is why there are 187 Black owned businesses in the food industry from San Jose to Sacramento. More than any other category we have on the site.However there is still a lack of representation of locally and nation wide of Blacks in the fine dining end of the food industry .
Normally we would not call a Black person in the food industry a unicorn, except perhaps Marcus Samuelsson.But because of the uniqueness in the type of food business these Bay Area Black business owners have, we consider them unicorn.
Buster’s Southern BBQ
While there are several Black-owned BBQ restaurants in the Bay Area which can find here, But Buster’s BBQ is unicorn because of its longevity business and location.
Nestled amongst the vineyards of the countryside it is the ONLY Black owned restaurant in the entire Napa Valley. The Black population in Napa is less than 1% due to redlining and other racist practices.
Charles Earl Davis (aka Buster) has owned and operated Buster’s Southern BBQ since 1965 and has been located in Calistoga, CA since 2000, with recipes based on his family roots in Shreveport, Louisiana. His place also features bakery items, sides, live music and indoor/outdoor dining. In Calistoga, Buster’s is legendary.
Chef Kenny is co-owner and mastermind behind Birdhaus in Union City, another city where the population of Black residents is miniscule. The restaurant is modeled after a German Beer Garden serving local craft beer and light snacks.
In the case of the Birdhaus, the light snacks are fried chicken sandwiches, a nod to African American cuisine. So it’s a fusion of German and African American influences.
Miyako Ice Cream Shop
Prior to gentrification, The Fillmore district in San Francisco was called “The Harlem of the West” and there were many thriving Black owned establishments. Now one of the only remaining Black businesses from that era is Miyako’s ice cream shop.
Many people assume the business is owned by a Japanese person given the name and its proximity to Japantown. But Tom Bennet and his daughter own it and it is the only Black owned ice cream shop in the Bay Area.
The shop is such a beloved staple in the community that when it was vandalized last year the community started a Go Fund campaign and raised for $10,000 overnight.
While there are several black owned bakeries in the area, no one specializes in pound cake. Owners Reggie Borders and Nicole Felix launched their pound cake business a few years prior to the COVID pandemic and now limit their sales to pick up, shipping & deliveries via their online business for now.
The cakes are moist, rich and nostalgic! And the have a wide range of flavors. People have not let the pandemic keep them from ordering and enjoying their pound cakes as a sheltering-in treat.
To find other Black Unicorn businesses in the Bay Area, click here.