A pair of entrepreneurs have launched an online directory of local queer-owned businesses and overnight the "living document" has grown in pages and prominence.
Earlier this month, Alana Fiks and Angela Farkas, co-owners of Black Market Provisions, were featured in a national news story. The press brought a lot of attention to their small South Osborne shop and the partners — in life and business — started looking for ways to pay it forward.
"We wanted to make sure to use that attention to highlight all queer businesses in Winnipeg or Manitoba," Fiks says over the phone. "There’s so many and they’re so diverse."
They put a call-out on social media and began compiling a list of businesses run by members of the LGBTTQ+ community. In little over a week the online directory has grown to include nearly 70 local shops and services.
"Even though for us the experience is generally 99 per cent positive, I think there’s still a lot of businesses out there that experience discrimination as a result of being openly queer," Fiks says. "If there’s just one person that sees the list and realizes all the success that queer people have had locally, I think that’s the biggest benefit."
The list — which is meant to promote businesses and act as a resource for shoppers — includes everything from restaurants to gyms to clothing stores to hair salons to photographers.
Winnipeg realtor Tara Suffield was eager to get on Black Market’s directory after her wife alerted her to its existence. Many of her clients are also members of the LGBTTQ+ community who, thus far, have found her through referrals. Suffield hopes the queer-owned business listing will help get the word out to those who are feeling wary about making the biggest purchase of their life.
"When I’m working with my buyers and sellers, I want them to feel comfortable and supported and to know that they’re not going to be judged in any way," she says. "Real estate is really intimate, it’s not a transaction for me… I’m in their house, I’m in their rooms, I’m in their knitting and they have to feel comfortable, I’m (even) in their finances to a certain degree."
Planning a wedding is an equally intimate affair.
Eddie and Ryan Mendoza are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary this year. Their big day was tainted by poor experiences with vendors, some of whom cancelled or stopped responding after learning the couple is gay.
"It wasn’t a good feeling, you know, because it was almost like, ‘Oh, my money is not green enough for you?’" Eddie says.
In recent years, they’ve been working to make the local wedding industry more accessible for same-sex couples. The pair run Charlie’s Charmed Creations, a handmade wooden fashion accessory company, and helped create the Love is Love Collective, a list of wedding resources for LGBTTQ+ couples. The Mendozas are excited to have both ventures included on the queer-owned business list.
"We think it’s really important to be a BIPOC-owned queer business and to be visible," says Eddie, who is Indigenous. Ryan is Filipino. "I’ve seen first-hand what it’s like to... not have a place to turn during a celebration and (for the community) to not know where their safe places are; so what the team over at Black Market are doing is providing a light to the community."
Fiks and Farkas plan to continue updating the queer-owned business list — which lives on their website (blackmarketwpg.com) — as nominations and requests roll in, but are open to passing the project on to the right group. The Manitoba LGBT Chamber of Commerce also operates a business directory, which caters to LGBTTQ+ members as well as allies.
"I feel like it should be maintained somewhere more centrally, so that people don’t have to necessarily go to a business’s website to find the list," Fiks says. "That would be ideal."
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.