April Ryan’s Favorite Things: Black businesses to support for the culture

From fashion to food, these vendors have treated me like family and now they’re giving theGrio a preview of new products and signature inventory. 

As we end Minority Enterprise Development Week, now is a prime time for me to highlight some of the Black businesses that are near and dear to my heart. From fashion to food, these vendors have treated me like family and now they’re giving theGrio a preview of new products and signature inventory. 

Jody Davis Design

Jody Davis Design, theGrio.com
Jody Davis Design. (Photo: Courtesy of Jody Davis Design)

Jody Davis is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. Her passion for fashion design started during her high school years. After graduating from high school, Jody attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and obtained a degree in fashion and accessory design. While studying in New York, she interned for Donna Karen

In 2009, Jody was given the opportunity to professionally produce and manufacture her first collection. She opened her first freestanding location in downtown Baltimore just a year after. 

Jody’s current collection includes more than 300 dresses, tops, slacks, denim jackets and jeans. Her dresses can be found in the wardrobes of professionals, politicians, personalities, and on the red carpet. Some notable clients include: Cathy Hughes founder of Urban One, Soledad O’Brien, American broadcaster, Adrienne Banfield-Norris host of Red Table Talk and myself.

The 2021 Fall Collection will arrive in the Boutique at 110 W. Saratoga St. in Baltimore, MD and Online at www.jodydavisdesign.com mid to late October. 

Melba’s Restaurant

Melba Wilson, owner of Melba's Restaurant, theGrio.com
Melba Wilson, owner of Melba’s Restaurant. (Photo: Courtesy of Melba Wilson)

Melba Wilson was “born, bred and buttered in Harlem.” Today she proudly represents her New York neighborhood as one of the most successful African-American women in the restaurant and catering businesses. 

Melba’s drive to succeed started at an early age with a sharp eye and impeccable insight. Her first opportunity to learn about the restaurant business was at Harlem’s famous Sylvia’s Restaurant, where she held a variety of service and managerial positions. It was Melba who conceptualized and launched the popular Sunday Gospel Brunch, which was so successful that the restaurant industry’s elite quickly came calling.

In 2004, Melba decided to strike out on her own. Today she is the proud, sole owner of three Harlem-based businesses: Melba’s Restaurant, Melba’s Catering and Melba’s Mussels. Melba’s has won rave reviews from New York Magazine, Time Out, The New Yorker, The Daily News, Zagat and Interview Magazine. Melba’s Catering has an extensive list of clientele including Target, Nike, American Express, Pfizer, Time Warner, Bank of America, The NFL, NBA, Transport Workers Union, Universal Records, The Archdiocese of New York and several recording artists including DJ Khaled, Jay- Z, the Zac Brown Band and Katy Perry.

Prince Harry and his wife Megan Markle dined at Melba’s in Harlem on Friday, September 24, 2021. This audience between the Queen of Soul Food and Prince of England further highlights the quality of Melba’s brand and menu.

Insight Opticians by Yolanda James

Since 2005, Insight Opticians’ passion and purpose has been to introduce a curated selection of independent handmade eyewear brands with the focus on individualized fittings and consultations. The brand believes eyewear should not be just about a brand name stamped on the side of the temple but more about a personalized statement that enhances and represents the wearer’s personality.

The owner of the business, Yolanda James, began her career when she landed a job at Georgetown Opticians. At this location she learned opticianry, and 13 years later, opened Insight Opticians just a few blocks shy of the White House and Capitol Building. 

Some of Insight Opticians’ clientele include Oprah Winfrey, Valerie Jarrett, Chef Kwame Onwuachi and A. Scott Bolden

According to Insight Opticians, the hottest trends in frameware this season are classic rounds with a modern design, translucent frames and brow bars, and more horizontal frames to show off the eyebrows you spend time and money maintaining.

Derrick Rutledge About Face

Derrick Rutledge About Face, theGrio.com
(Photo: Courtesy of Derrick Rutledge About Face)

Oprah Winfrey’s make-up artist, Derrick Rutledge, is known throughout the beauty industry for helping his mega star clients define their look.  He founded Derrick Rutledge About Face in 1993. As the founder of DRAF, Derrick has assembled a team of beauty all-stars in make-up, hair and fashion who are at the ready to jet across the world to meet the needs of the most distinguishing and iconic personalities today. The DRAF LLC team of beauty experts operates collectively offering “end-to-end” image services to celebrities and high-profile clients through individual consultancies and public seminars. The services include hair and make-up, clothes and accessories, identity creation, launching, maintenance and “reinvention.”

Last year, Derrick successfully launched an array of beautiful eyelashes for the discerning woman. He made a conscious decision to present his collection of eyelashes as his first product offered to the mass market for a few reasons. Derrick informs that “perfecting a woman’s presence begins with her eyes.” A nod and glance can say it all if that nod is packaged right. 

The Derrick Rutledge PYP Perfecting Your Presence Collection of lashes is quite different from what’s currently on the market because Derrick has been meticulous and thoughtful in the strategic placement of each lash resulting in a beautiful, luscious 3D and 5D lash that not only is attractive, but is appealing to admiring men and women alike. Derrick’s lashes also come with a thicker band to ensure better adhesion and durability. 

Just recently, Derrick released his best kept secret of all — his uber rich skin serum called AURA which is critical to skin health and leaves the skin looking like it’s been kissed  by the sun. “Covid-19 made me bring out my best kept secret. With these masks, you see the eyes and you can dress them up to be whatever you like, but the skin is covered for most of the day and without the benefit of receiving the natural vitamins infused by the sun the skin needs help to remain healthy,” says Rutledge.

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