For some, CIAA week is all about fun. For others, it’s all about business.

Take Tia Brazzell, for example.

As kitchen manager at Mert’s Heart and Soul, Brazzell and her staff are bracing for one of their busiest periods of the year. The family owned restaurant on College Street will serve nearly twice as many patrons this week as normal, and staff will pull double duty as business hours are extended to midnight during the week and until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

“Business will be ridiculous,” she said. “We expect to be busy from the time we open until the time we close, all the way up until Sunday evening.”

Other service-oriented businesses are gearing up as well. Some say volume this week will be two or three times the level they normally would see.

La’Shonda Spencer, owner of Pedestal Salon & Spa on Freedom Drive, said business began picking up the week prior to CIAA, and this week, she said, will be much busier.

“I am so glad that Charlotte will be hosting the CIAA tournament for the next few years, because it is great for small business owners like myself,” she said.

Instead of a typical eight-hour workday, Spencer said she will be on her feet 13 to 15 hours each day, mostly doing hair and eyelash extensions.

Stylists in Spence’s salon not only are booking more appointments, but their clients are spending more. Many are adding services such as airbrush make-up applications, pedicures and manicures, Spencer said. Some are spending $150 to $200 to make sure they look their best this week.

Although Spencer attributes some of the increase to tax refunds, she anticipates a 30 percent increase in walk-ins and first-time clients because of the CIAA.

This year, Spencer expanded her marketing strategy, which consisted mainly of word of mouth and Internet, to include television, radio ads and a street team to promote her salon.

Promoters enjoy new venues

For some local promoters, CIAA week will generate more money than they ordinarily might see in a month.

Ezra Leak of Blue Goose Entertainment said CIAA week is an exciting time not only because of the revenue it generates but also because it allows party planners to be more creative and gives promoters greater access to a wider variety of venues.

“People are looking to do things a little differently,” he said. “This year, we are doing an all-day party at Cosmos Uptown Café on Friday, which will last 14 hours.”

Leak said his company focuses primarily on day parties during CIAA week and will host three other events in Uptown Charlotte at Strike City, Black Finn and Suite.

African American promoters say upscale venues, especially those uptown, are more willing to work with an urban crowd when the CIAA is in town.

“You typically would not see as many minorities in certain spots, like the EpiCentre and around Uptown in general outside of the CIAA,” Leak said. “It’s a great opportunity.”

No music, no party

Of course, no party is complete without music, and demand for local DJ’s is so great that some have been offered two to three times more than their normal rates to accept gigs.

CIAA week is the busiest time of year for the Unpredictable DJ C-Rob of C-Rob Productions. On average, he said, he books two parties each weekend. But during CIAA, he will be working two parties a day and has turn down almost as many offers as he accepted.

“It’s amazing,” he said.

C-Rob said demand for DJ’s has increased with the popularity of the event.

“Even those who are not well known in the area can get booked for parties,” he said.

Photographers Jonathon Strayhorn and Fred Braziel, owners of Media Arts Collective, said they will be much too busy to party during CIAA.

They have seen a significant increase in business this year and have taken on additional photographers to balance the workload.

“Unfortunately, we even had to turn down some events because we didn‘t have the coverage,” Strayhorn said.

This year, Strayhorn and Braziel will be working mostly corporate events, in addition to a few parties and games.

“That was a goal of ours,” said Strayhorn. “The networking we have done over the past year has landed us in a position to get great jobs during CIAA, and our bottom line looks well.”

Strayhorn said he hopes the relationships they have formed will continue to benefit their company long after the tournament is over.

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