Historically, downtown Washington, D.C. has not been known as a haven for Black entrepreneurs.
But that may soon change as a new eating venue, Ninety Ten by DC Sweet Potato Cake Bakery & Café, opened its doors for business on June 28.
The Black-owned establishment, located across from Farragut Park in Northwest and in the heart of the District’s central financial and business district, serves as a dream come true for April Richardson, a former Prince George’s County prosecutor and an attorney. Richardson also owns Baked in Baltimore, a retail/manufacturing business in Baltimore City that makes and distributes sweet potato cakes.
Richardson said she intentionally wanted to set up her business in downtown Washington.
“I wanted to get back into D.C. and when George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, I wanted to be part of the national response to that,” she said. “When I saw Mayor Bowser set up Black Lives Matter Plaza, I wanted to be a part of that.”
Richardson debuted her District business with 50 supporters on hand including D.C. Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio and local leaders such as Jeanette Mobley, Estelle Lloyd and Faith Gibson Hubbard.
Working with Falcicchio, Kristi Whitfield, the director of the Department of Small and Local Business Development and officials with the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (BID) which encompasses Richardson’s business, Richardson successfully persuaded her landlord to lease space to her and for M&T Bank to finance her operation.
“We want to make sure that minority and women-owned businesses can come and prosper in the Golden Triangle BID,” said Leona Agouridis, the executive director of the BID. “We are working to link small and local entrepreneurs to downtown space. It’s part of our vision of a long-term program to change the neighborhood.”
Richardson’s business features her well-known sweet potato cake that comes in flavors ranging from bourbon and butter pecan to red velvet, chocolate and rum. The store also features food bowls, wraps, salads, a breakfast menu, smoothies, coffees, teas and juices. Comedian and entrepreneur Joe Clair sells his “Good As Cake” pound cake in the store. Richardson said she wants people to enjoy her store’s offerings but to also be conscious of their health.
“I want our customers to eat healthy,” she said. “Ninety percent of people’s diet should be filled with healthy choices – the other 10% can be left to guilt-free indulgence. Dieting is stressful but choosing a healthy approach to eating creates a lifestyle worth living.”
Falcicchio said supporting Richardson’s interest to set up her business in downtown Washington meets two goals of the Bowser administration.
“We want businesses like April’s to become the norm in downtown,” he said. “She is permanently here. She has a full lease. We are also trying to bring businesses and people back to downtown since the worse of the pandemic has passed and we’re working with Golden Triangle BID to get occupants for the vacant retail space.”