by Sam Craig
Mahasin Shakoor watches over her store from a seat in the back left corner. Surrounded by the smell of sandalwood and a kaleidoscope of skirts, scarves and dashikis, she looks perfectly at home. Like she could have been there forever.
Mahasin has been on 2nd Street longer than most. She opened Shakoor’s Merchandise in 2002 with her husband Dawud. In an area where most businesses are only a few years old, it is an impressive feat to last 16 years. Mahasin is the first to admit that it wasn’t easy.
“We were denied a loan to start our business. My husband and I had to do this by ourselves. For eight years one of us would work the shop while the other worked an outside job to make sure our business could accomodate us. It takes fortitude.”
Shakoor’s is the kind of business that gave Jackson Ward the name Black Wall Street back in its heyday, but Mahasin does not just want to serve as a reminder of Jackson Ward’s capitalist past. She wants to inspire the next generation.
“We want to be a role model for urban children, who may not have the opportunity to see a black-owned business on 2nd Street. Hopefully it is a comfort for them that there is a business in the African American community that is still here. It shows them that you can have a business. It shows them that for whatever they want to do they need discipline, they have to be reliable and have a good work ethic.”
For many entrepreneurs their business is their baby, but Mahasin presents herself as more of a mother to the community. She speaks with everyone who enters her store, both young and old. Not just about what they are looking for in her store, but how their family is, how their job is going, whats on their mind. Mahasin knows her customer.
“Most of my customers are working class. All kinds of people come here because we sell a lot of our products wholesale. Jackson Ward is a hub for all different regions to come together safely. Like a family reunion.”
Halina Perez came from Southside with her family to see what was new at Shakoor’s. “We can get things here that we can’t get anywhere else for the price,” she said. She ends up purchasing incense and a perfumed body oil.
Mahasin looks at her business as an investment in the community. Therefore, it is part of her job to look after Jackson Ward.
“That’s the problem with other people moving into the community. They are taking the money out of Jackson Ward. In the long run that’s bad for business. You should go into a community looking to improve it, so your business is able to grow. Where there are no businesses. people become stagnant. A business can do a lot of good for a neighborhood if they are willing to invest in the community.”
And a community can do a lot of good for a business. Shakoor is an Arabic name meaning thankful. Mahasin says that is exactly what she is—thankful to be here, on 2nd Street, a member of the Jackson Ward community.