Getting to know some of Lansing’s Black business owners

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Deanna Ray-Brown, Everything is Cheesecake

Everything is Cheesecake

5443 S. Cedar St., Lansing

Saturday-Sunday, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

everything-is-cheesecake.business.site

(517) 862-2979

Deanna Ray-Brown, 40, opened her food truck Everything is Cheesecake back in 2018 after growing tired of working full time as a training manager for a Fortune 500 company. When pondering a career change, she turned to one of her longtime passions, baking.

“I was stressed out and no longer mentally cut out for the job. I began experimenting with recipes, taking a lot of them from my mother, and began baking cheesecakes. I gave the product to my family and friends and they said it was some of the best they ever had,” Ray-Brown said.

Before purchasing the official Everything is Cheesecake truck, Ray-Brown would sell her baked goods out of a tent to walkup customers. She went with a food truck instead of leasing a brick-and-mortar space to cut costs, citing the expense of building a kitchen fit for a bakery from scratch.

“I just wanted to get started. I purchased a truck that was fully equipped with everything I needed,” Ray-Brown said.

Once the food truck got rolling, Ray-Brown quit her job and made Everything is Cheesecake her full-time occupation. Ray-Brown’s favorite part of running her own business is interacting with her customers and lending a helping hand to the Greater Lansing community. “I love being able to make a difference and creating something unique for people to enjoy,” she said. “I always try to give back to the community whenever I can.”

During the pandemic, Ray-Brown and Everything is Cheesecake led an effort to feed children and displaced workers. She’s also used her business to head several other charitable operations, including providing toys to children and purchasing lunches to keep people from going hungry.

“That’s what being a business owner is all about. Making an impact on somebody’s life,” she said.

Ray-Brown said she has received a lot of love and support from Lansing since opening Everything is Cheesecake, and hopes that more Black-owned businesses will open in Lansing in the future.

“I try to support a lot of businesses, and I am hoping to see a lot more Black businesses established in Lansing.”

Atalie Buycks, Thriftique

Thriftique

1137 S. Washington Ave., Lansing

Thursday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Facebook.com/thriftiquebiz • (517) 256-0962

Atalie Buycks, 42, got the inspiration to open her business, Thriftique, after taking care of a friend’s thrift store for a year in 2008. After returning the keys, she was driven to open her own shop. The following year, she had Thriftique up and running and is still going strong to this day.

“I was really inspired by my grandmother. She taught me the art of thrift. I also had a natural passion for it,” Buycks said. “I took out a bare bones business loan, and then I had a location and a sign.”

Buycks wanted to create a thrift shop that was more of a boutique, with higher quality items that still possessed that special thrifty feeling. She credits her longevity to the support she’s received from the Lansing community.

“You’ve got to be smart. Most of your money just goes back into your business. It’s not like you’re sitting there with piles of money,” Buycks said.

Buycks described her experience as a Black woman business owner with Mexican heritage as eye opening.

“It wasn’t something that was on top of my radar. But with people supporting me in that factor, it made me realize, ‘Where are my dollars going? Is there something that I could be doing that is more supportive to a smaller Black-owned business?”

Buycks said she wants Thriftique to help combat hurtful stigmas surrounding thrifting, including the notion that buying clothes at a thrift shop is “only for poor people.”

“I’m adamant about trying to change that perspective. One shopper at a time,” Buycks said.

Buyck’s advice for people that are looking to open up their own business is to be prepared for long hours and hard labor.

“Just get started. Doing something that is actually tangible, that is more than just a business plan. It’s like having a baby, there’s never going to be a perfect time,” she said.

Maurice Summerville, Mo Wings

Mo Wings

424 S. Washington Sq., Lansing

Monday-Thursday, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Mowingslansing.com • (517) 721-1770

Before Maurice Summerville, 49, opened his first restaurant, Mo Wings, he had his own real estate company, Ewing Enterprises, which renovated old properties. He wanted to make the change after being inspired by his family.

“We wanted to do something as a family. My auntie Rosie passed away a couple years ago. She always wanted to do a business together — there was a lot of inspiration there,” Summerville said.

Summerville said opening Mo Wings was a smooth process. He leased the location on Washington Square in 2019 and spent several months fixing it up and getting it ready to house all of the necessary kitchen equipment. Summerville wanted to open a restaurant that had delicious, but still affordable food. “I put my prices where the community can come in and afford a meal,” he said.

Summerville considers his first couple of years a restaurant owner as exciting and positive. “It was a little shocking how much people loved our wings and food. It was great. Silver Bells was excellent. We were pushing strong until the pandemic came, things slowed down then,” he said.

While the pandemic has brought upon a lot of changes to the menu, reduction of employee hours and a shift to focusing on takeout, Mo Wings is still persevering thanks to a lot of love from dedicated customers.

“I think people really gravitated toward us because of who I am as a person. Whether I was Black or white, I don’t think it would have a lot of bearing,” Summerville said. “But our community supports our Black owners, and that’s important. Our Black owners support our Black communities, it’s all positive all the way around.”

Aside from Mo Wings, Summerville is also well known for his work as a youth basketball coach at Waverly High School. In the future, he wants to open a second Mo Wings location and expand his efforts in giving back to Lansing. “We want to be there for a lot of community activities. We want to support our people,” he said.

Rizza Marie Benton, Roots Hair Lounge

Roots Hair Lounge

Opens March 1

More info: Rootshairlansing.glossgenius.com

Rizza Marie Benton, 32, who uses they/them pronouns, is just a couple weeks away from opening their very first business, a salon called Roots Hair Lounge. Benton’s salon will be located inside of the Wild Ferns Wellness Center, which also includes spaces that offer counseling and massage.

Benton’s mission with Roots Hair Lounge is to create a safe space for all people of color, as well as members of the LGBTQ community, to get their hair styled, cut and dyed.

Benton has worked with several Black woman business owners in their career as a stylist, and cites them as inspiring figures when it came to striking out to open up Roots Hair Lounge.

“There is a great salon called Rhonda’s Reflections, which is owned by a Black woman who’s amazing. Every time I’ve gone there, I’ve always tried to absorb her techniques and talk hair. I really respect the way she runs her business.”

Benton also cites their time at Rubie’s Paradise Salon as formative for their vision with Roots Hair Lounge.

Benton said they are feeling a little bit nervous, as this is their very first business. But their passion comes down to caring for people and making them feel beautiful in their bodies, and Benton said they are willing to face any challenges that might arise.

“I feel pretty excited, opening a business during COVID is scary for obvious reasons. But this was a space that I really wanted to a part of it, and it feels like we are building something beautiful. I think it will be worth it in the long run.”

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