May 9, 2023
The cultural significance and economic empowerment brought by Black-owned businesses have been integral to Detroit’s rich history. These businesses have served as a symbol of cultural identity and have played a crucial role in the preservation of the community’s heritage. Sadly, due to the constantly shifting economic landscape and gentrification, many of these businesses have faced significant challenges in their ability to survive. In an effort to preserve Detroit’s Black-owned Legacy businesses that are 25 years or older, The Institute of Legacy Preservation (ILP) has emerged, dedicated to supporting these businesses and ensuring their longevity.
Lauren Stovall, the president and CEO, has dedicated her life’s work to being a champion of legacy preservation. She is spearheading a movement to empower and acknowledge businesses that have thrived within their communities for generations. The organization’s primary objective is to establish a sustainable ecosystem for Black-owned businesses in Detroit, which involves providing them with access to essential resources, education and growth opportunities. Through these efforts, ILP seeks to enhance the local economy, generate job opportunities and preserve the cultural heritage of the Black community in Detroit.
While preservation may not have been Stovall’s intended career path, a life immersed in legacy is not a concept new to her. Upon joining her family’s business, Hot Sam’s, Detroit’s oldest men’s clothing store, Stovall realized the immense significance of legacy preservation and made it her mission to ensure her family’s business succeeded and thrived.
“As I began working with my family business, I started noticing that it’s a bit different and a bit harder to define than just marketing director,” Stovall explained. “Nothing wrong with that title, but I found that there was more that I was doing, although marketing is a part of it. But I’ll be honest, it was a name that divinely came to me to call my work as the legacy preserver.”
The mission of a legacy preserver is to safeguard the stories of generational Black-owned businesses from being lost or forgotten. By sharing and celebrating these stories with the community, we not only preserve the history and legacy of these influential businesses but also contribute to the broader cultural heritage of Detroit’s Black-owned businesses.
“They are black businesses, which is already a minority group itself and other minority owners. But then there is a unique minority of legacy businesses. They have unique needs. With all the newness that is coming to Detroit and particularly downtown Detroit, it can be easy to forget about these older businesses. But why would we forget about them when they’ve done so much? They’ve contributed so much, and they’ve withstood so much. We must honor that. We must recognize that.”
As Detroit continues to experience a wave of development and growth, the importance of preserving the city’s heritage and history cannot be overstated. Black-owned businesses have played a vital role in shaping the city’s economy and culture.
“I think the awareness and the awakening that there is a sector of businesses that need our attention as we continue to evolve and grow and as the city is going forward with big plans, will ensure that we don’t forget or neglect these [Black-owned] businesses.” Initially a marketing major, Stovall has developed a strategic approach to promote and raise awareness for the businesses she serves.
From a strategic standpoint she understands the importance of establishing a Personal Legacy. Through services, initiatives and programs, ILP’s goal is to ensure that businesses identify their legacies and sustain, maintain and thrive. The organization also recognizes the importance of Collective and Cultural Legacy rooted in the recognition of global, local and universal history. By curating experiences with historical context to educate and empower communities, one can ultimately share and remember legacies that have shaped collective culture and community throughout history.