Black-Owned Restaurants, Retailers & Landmarks in Westchester
Westchester and the Hudson Valley have played a critical role in the history of African-Americans in the United States. In recognition of Black History Month, we’ve rounded up a list of 15 Black-owned restaurants, businesses, and historical sites to celebrate the cultural contributions and history of people of color in our region.
Generations of Black families built the Hudson Valley and continue to contribute to the vibrant cultural, culinary, and artistic character of our region. Further inspiration has come from people who have immigrated from the Caribbean, bringing with them the rich cultural heritages that continue to shape our neighborhoods.
Here then are some of our favorite Black-owned businesses in Westchester and the Hudson for you to enjoy.
Black-Owned Restaurants in Westchester and the Hudson Valley
BeanRunner Café — Peekskill
The BeanRunner Café is more than just a local eatery. Housed within a historic landmark, the café is an art gallery, live music venue, social hub, and a great spot to grab breakfast or lunch. The kids' menu includes favorites such as PB&J and grilled cheese as well as a host of fresh smoothie and dessert options. Plan a visit on February 26 from noon to 3pm for the Kids Artist Pop Up Sale featuring original artwork by kids ages 12-16 years old.
Breakfast options abound at Blacc Vanilla.
Blacc Vanilla — Newburgh
Take a trip across the Hudson for a visit to Blacc Vanilla, a coffee lounge that is helping to revitalize the community. Owner Jerrod Lang grew up in Newburgh, and after returning home he set his sights on making a positive impact by opening a business that brings together diverse communities and highlights local artists and musicians. He does it all while serving up delicious coffee drinks and delightful breakfast and lunch options. Kids will enjoy the chicken and waffles, which can be made with chocolate chip, blueberry, or red velvet.
Brothers Barbecue — Cornwall
Family is the secret ingredient at Brothers Barbecue. Brothers Gavin, Jamie, and Chris Farella grew up in the area but spent their summers in North Carolina, where they learned all about southern BBQ. They brought those lessons back to the Hudson Valley and now they’re treating the community like family with comfort food that includes cornbread, collard greens, and kid-friendly sides like candied yams and mac and cheese.
PK Blendz gives out smoothies to frontline workers.
PK Blendz — Peekskill
Who knew healthy could taste so good? Rob Scott at PK Blendz is serving up smoothies, juices, and snacks that are packed with fresh fruits and vegetables that are also all completely vegan. We’re partial to the PK Milkshake, featuring a blend of banana, coconut milk, honey, and cinnamon.
Enjoy a sweet treat from Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery in Scarsdale.
Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery — Scarsdale
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery, which has been featured on “The View” and Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” Its cupcakes dazzle with whimsical decorations and unique flavor profiles. If that wasn’t enough, it also makes homemade ice cream that can be infused with your choice of cupcake. But don’t just take our word for it. USA Today named Smallcakes one of the Top 10 Cupcake Places to try in the U.S.
Black-Owned Businesses in Westchester and the Hudson Valley
Center for Creative Education — Kingston
Under the guidance of longtime executive director Bryant “Drew” Andrews, the Center for Creative Education is a nonprofit whose mission is to enrich the social and cultural awareness of children and the community through arts, wellness, and education. Classes range from the visual arts to theater, writing, gymnastics, and a variety of dance styles.
Mom and dad will delight in the 80s and 90s memorabilia at Megabrain Comics & Arcade.
Megabrain Comics & Arcade — Rhinebeck
As if cool comic books and memorabilia weren’t enough of a reason to visit Megabrain, this gem in Rhinebeck is also home to an arcade with retro games. With plenty of '80s and '90s nostalgia, this stop will be just as much fun for parents as it is for kids. Family is at the heart of this store, and co-owner Jean Michel wanted to make sure his store was a safe and cozy environment where people walked in the door and felt at home. If you’re not sure what to buy, its friendly staff will be happy to chat you up and help you find just what you’re looking for.
Tee-Owels — Online
Based in the Hudson Valley, Tee-Owels is an online retailer started by esthetician and entrepreneur Liz Girolamo. Her organic cotton T-shirt hair towels are gentle on hair and reduce damage and breakage caused by regular towels. Her unique hair towels have also garnered the attention of publications such as Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Glamour, and Elle.
Zeus and Lexi Kids — Online
This online boutique has some of the cutest clothing for young girls. It includes free shipping on domestic orders and its stylish catalog is a little girl’s dream. With unique style, Zeus and Lexi Kids encourages kids “to never follow the trends but always set the trends, while staying true to themselves.”
Zhanés Palette Studio — Hudson Valley
With virtual classes and mobile parties that bring fun to you, Zhanés Palette Studio is filling our region with color and creativity. Looking for a unique birthday party idea? Artist and business owner Azhané brings the party to you with packages designed just for kids that include easels and all the materials needed. You can also shop for art supplies directly through her website.
African-American Historical Sites in Westchester and the Hudson Valley
Enslaved Africans' Rain Garden — Yonkers
Opening in May 2022, the Enslaved Africans' Rain Garden is a public art project that honors the legacy of enslaved Africans who lived at the Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers. Visit the website to learn about artist Vinnie Bagwell and read the stories behind the statues she has created for the garden. The statues are on display at the Yonkers Riverfront Library until they move to their permanent home later this spring.
Mount Gulian Historic Site — Beacon
Mount Gulian is the homestead of the Dutch Verplanck family and their trusted employee James F. Brown. Brown escaped a life of slavery in Maryland and found employment and freedom with the Verplanck family, keeping journals detailing his daily life. In addition to visiting the historic site, the website offers a virtual tour and a glimpse into Brown’s life. His final resting place is nearby, at St. Luke's Churchyard.
The works of Alvin Clayton are on display at the Rye Arts Center.
Rye Arts Center — Rye
Now through February 26, 2022, the Rye Arts Center is featuring the exhibit Alvin and Friends, presented by Morgan Stanley and curated by Kicki Storm. The exhibit features artwork by artist and restaurateur Alvin Clayton and other emerging artists. Alvin has also made his mark on Hudson Valley culture with his contemporary restaurant Alvin & Friends in New Rochelle.
The stunning statue of Sojourner Truth sits along the Walkway Over the Hudson. Photo by the author
Sojourner Truth Memorial — Port Ewen
Learning about the remarkable life of abolitionist Sojourner Truth is an important place to start a study of Black history in the Hudson Valley. She was born into slavery in the Hudson Valley, and after escaping, used her voice to fight for freedom and equality. There are dozens of children’s books detailing her life and work. Visit the Sojourner Truth Memorial in Esopus, which portrays her as a child. Then visit the Walkway Over the Hudson in Highland, which unveiled a stunning 7-foot statue of Sojourner Truth in 2020.
The Underground Railroad — Nyack
Walking past quirky shops and quaint homes in downtown Nyack, you might be surprised to find historic markers noting the town as an integral part of the Underground Railroad. One sign marks the home of Cynthia Hesdra, who was born into slavery but gained her freedom and became a successful entrepreneur and a key figure in Nyack’s part in the Underground Railroad. A bench in Nyack Memorial Park, dedicated by the Toni Morrison Society, honors Hesdra's life and is a place to sit and reflect on the journey to freedom.
Unless noted, photos courtesy of the venues