After Brock Vieney was laid off from his job as a cook at a Wilkes-Barre restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, he decided to start his own business.
The Wilkes-Barre resident now bakes and sells several different kinds of breads, from banana to pumpkin to lemon blueberry breads.
He bakes at Fire & Ice in Kingston Twp., where he also now works as a cook, and he sells mini loaves at his pop-up shop called Brock’s Fresh Breads.
He sets up his pop-up shop at different places such as the Garden Drive-In flea market on Sundays and other locations throughout Luzerne and Lackawanna counties like the Mark Plaza parking lot in Edwardsville, where he was Saturday. He also delivers.
Vieney is one of about 25 business owners from Northeast Pennsylvania who will participate in the first NEPA Black-owned Business Expo scheduled for Sept. 4 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Pocono’s Convention Center in Plains Twp.
He is assisting former Scranton resident Janiece Montes, who owns a pop-up shop called Janiece’s Purse Collection, in organizing the expo. She sells affordable purses priced under $50 each.
“I thought it was important to spotlight Black-owned businesses in the community. They’re not highlighted enough,” Montes said. “We’re trying to make a statement that we’re business owners, too.”
Montes has been trying to organize the event for a while and hold it in August during National Black Business Month. Anthony Carlucci, president and general manager of Mohegan Sun Pocono, said casino officials are “thrilled” to host the event in the casino’s convention center. The expo will feature pop-up shops that allow visitors to learn more about services, products and brands of “some of the most impressive Black-owned businesses in and around Northeast Pennsylvania,” he said.
“We’re thrilled to host what should be a tremendous event and hope to be able to support many more like it in the future,” Carlucci said.
Wilkes-Barre resident Latoya Jones, who owns a pop-up shop selling plus-size clothing called Thick’Emz, also will participate in the upcoming expo and is helping organize it.
Jones sets up her pop-up shop at different places throughout the area as well. On Friday, she was at the Quality Inn & Suites on Kidder Street in Wilkes-Barre. When she is not selling plus-size clothing, she works as a certified nursing assistant at Birchwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Nanticoke.
She said the upcoming expo is a good opportunity to “show the community who we are.” She also said it will show “another side” of the Black community as business owners.
“There’s not a lot of Black-owned businesses around the world, not just in our area, and I feel like it’s a good opportunity to get us out there,” Jones said.
Nationally, Black business owners account for about 10% of U.S. businesses and about 30% of all minority-owned businesses, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Glynis Johns, founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization the Black Scranton Project, created a directory of Black business owners throughout Northeast Pennsylvania that can be found at blackscranton.org/blackbusiness.
Other Black business owners in Northeast Pennsylvania interested in participating in the expo are asked to email Montes at firstname.lastname@example.org.