Entrepreneur Robbie McNair-Guzman says that for residents to support Black-owned businesses, first, the businesses must exist.
When she and business partner Michael Ann Gosby opened Good Life at Enderly Park in September, they said it filled a void from the lack of minority-owned event venues in Charlotte.
“We’ve had a lot of people verbalize to us that we needed this,” Gosby added.
The massive 10,800-square-foot facility is the former site of a Goodwill store and donation center at 2122 Freedom Drive and Berryhill Road in Enderly Park, a historic neighborhood in west Charlotte. Now, it’s a one-stop shop that includes onsite event planners, a florist, catering services, decor rentals and more.
Black Business Matters
Dedicated bride and groom suites are located next to the open space on the bottom floor. There are also two prep kitchens on site.
A lounge upstairs can host smaller gatherings like birthday parties and baby showers.
At capacity, Good Life at Enderly Park holds 581 people seated.
From nightlife to the Good Life
McNair-Guzman has been self-employed for nearly three decades. Before co-owning Good Life and its subsidiaries, most notably she operated Caviar Nightlife, an uptown nightclub once located where Whole Foods on East Stonewall Street now sits.
By day, Gosby worked for a local production company that specialized in major racing events like Speed Street. Her night gig was as a bartender at Caviar. Gosby often blended her two worlds and partnered with McNair-Guzman to host sponsored events at the club. It caught on with clubgoers, who would ask Gosby to plan their occasions like kids’ birthday parties, baby showers and weddings.
An opportunity to officially become business partners came as Gosby was deciding to quit her day job. Once a side hustle, now her event planning business was growing, and she wanted to pursue it full time.
“She really felt like it was a good time for her to leave her job, and she asked would I be interested in collaborating with her,” McNair-Guzman remembered.
When the owner sold Caviar Nightlife in 2014, McNair-Guzman said she was in limbo. Gosby’s offer came as she was trying to figure out her next step.
The ladies began doing business as Good Life Couture Events, and it quickly expanded to include other services. As word-of-mouth spread, revenue followed. They created high-profile events like last year’s Fête Fashion Show and Brunch, which featured Fashion Bomb Daily blog’s Claire Sulmers and a guest appearance by rapper Fabolous. Sales grew from $50,000 in 2015 to nearly $1 million in 2018, according to McNair-Guzman.
“In the process of becoming preferred vendors all over Charlotte, we realized that we just didn’t have a Black-owned space,” Gosby said. “The process started about a year ago looking really hard and intentional for space.”
Part of the neighborhood
As Charlotte continues to grow, areas within proximity to center city are getting more and more attractive to developers. Rapid gentrification is changing the landscape of neighborhoods that historically housed a majority of Black and brown residents as well as small businesses.
The Good Life owners didn’t want to open up shop and ignore the community that surrounded it.
“With the building, we knew we would call it the Good Life, but then we started talking about the neighborhood,” Gosby said about including Enderly Park, a predominantly Black neighborhood, in the building’s name. “I think what it’s done for this neighborhood and the community as a whole, they are very appreciative of us holding on to that name and embracing it.”
Good Life at Enderly Park joins other hidden gems like Venue@1801, an event space that was located at 1801 N. Tryon Street for nine years before relocating in April. The converted warehouse was one of the businesses impacted by the sale of City North Business Center, which housed dozens of small businesses and sparked community conversations about business gentrification. Venue@1801 has since reopened in west Charlotte at 1701 W. Trade Street.
To McNair-Guzman’s original point about the need for more Black-owned businesses to exist, Coretta Livingston, owner of Venue@1801, says entrepreneurs also have to be willing to go the extra mile to ensure people know about the businesses in order to support it.