Before Tisha Crear opened up Recipe Oak Cliff, her juice bar in Dallas, she walked up and down a long block in her neighborhood in search of the right building. Most were abandoned and had fallen into disrepair, so she went with the newest build.
“And then it spoke and it said, start with food.”
While vegan cooking comes naturally to Crear, she’s most passionate about developing community. Even before the idea for Recipe came about, she worked with her organization Susu Cultural Business Incubator & Co-op (CBI) to take locals through a vendor certification program and open pop-up markets on abandoned lots throughout South Dallas.
The goal is to support “socially responsible businesses,” like cultural retail shops and performing arts venues, that serve the neighborhood. On top of running Recipe full-time, Crear continues to make space for local vendors to sell jewelry and books. Since the pandemic, they’ve had to set up shop outside.
“Local innovation, like the quality that each neighborhood has with their local businesses, their local entrepreneurs, is all the innovation a community really needs. Those are the people who need the support, who need more resources so that they can get their innovation out and active in transforming their community.”
Crear points to a longstanding Dallas institution, the Pan-African Connection, as an example. The bookstore and resource center supported her poetry venture she launched in her teens, and it still serves as a hub for everything from drum circles to writing and math classes for local youth to Juneteenth community bike rides.
According to the organization’s website, these ongoing activities aim to “dispel the long term propaganda that we have no history and that we have lost our culture.”
Nearby Tenth Street is one of the nation’s last remaining intact districts established by emancipated slaves. Since the historic designation was declared in 1993, about a third of the homes in the neighborhood have been demolished to make way for new development.
Amidst ongoing gentrification in Oak Cliff, Crear stresses the importance of locals buying up the properties in their neighborhood.
“When you start to realize how real estate is woven into the dynamic of generations and where they will land economically, health-wise, their physical body, and so many other factors– that's when it became very clear to me the importance and the value of property ownership and the collective work thereof.”
Her next step? Reimagining Recipe’s exterior with fresh planters and splashes of color, to draw eyes to local innovation and inspire the next generation of community builders.
This story is part of a series following small business owners through the pandemic. To view all stories part of NBC Local’s “Rebound” project, click here.