Lee's Flower Shop on U Street (Courtesy photo)
Lee's Flower Shop on U Street (Courtesy photo)

For many, the Friday after Thanksgiving is a time to rummage through shelves in big-box stores in search of bargains.

But for those who came into the 6200 block of Third Street Northwest on Black Friday this year, they had the opportunity to stroll through a vintage shopping strip lined with African-American merchants who have a proud heritage.

Between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, an estimated 164 million people went shopping, with roughly 67 million of them shopping on “Small Business Saturday,” according to the National Retail Federation.

“Small Business Saturday focuses attention on the many mom-and-pop retailers that make up the fabric and history of society who are trying to remain viable against the larger retailers,” said Carol Butler, of the District, who attends the First Baptist Church of Georgetown and whose father was born and raised in Georgetown.

From dining on Jamaican dishes such as jerk chicken or salmon stuffed with shrimp and crab meat, to selecting the material for a hand-crafted hat at Bene Millinery, there was much to offer Saturday along Third Street.

“The customer usually come to me because they know we are here and would come whether it is Black Friday or not,” said Peaches Watson, who 12 years ago opened Peach’s Restaurant, which specialize in dishes from her homeland of Jamaica.

But Watson is quick to say that those who dine at her restaurant come from an experience and not for speed.

“I cook to order,” she said. “My food takes a little longer to prepare. If you want a stuffef salmon, it takes time to make If you appreciate good, quality, cooked food that is not just popped in the oven. It takes time, but after you eat, it is worth the wait.”

Another special place is Bene Millinery, where 99-year-old Vanilla Bean and three generations of hat makers are still working their magic to create wide brims, pill boxes and a range of hats.

“It means everything to me to be able to get up in the morning and come in to do my hats, and I can wait on people who I have met during the years,” said Bean as she sat in her hat shop Monday with her daughter Linda Jefferson and her granddaughter Joy Jefferson.

“What is special about the shop is that we have that one-on-one touch,” Joy Jefferson said. “My grandmother knows her customers. She learns them and knows what they want because she has established longtime comraderies.”

One can also find along Third Street the Lovely Lady Boutique, Senbeb Café Vegan Restaurant, the Manor Park Barbershop and the VIP Room, a banquet venue which is owned by the widow and children of Abner “Sam,” Sampson, a legendary District businessman who went door to door selling Airways vacuum cleaners.

“We try to make everyone feel like one family,” said Bo Sampson, general manager of the VIP Room. “At the VIP room, we try to make everyone a very important person.”

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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