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Making Space At The Table

Posted in From the Owners

I have been wrestling with this post for a few days now. We started this series with the hope that we could provide a little perspective on small businesses in the midst of the pandemic. 

But over the past week, while we’ve had our heads down trying to figure out how to “re-open” to serving customers in-store (outside), our country has erupted into a different kind of crisis: a global crisis of division, fear, hate, and injustice.  

In some ways, yesterday was an idyllic kind-of-day in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. People are re-emerging from their caves for a little fresh air, blue skies and a cool breeze. A friend of mine and I took advantage of such a day and went on a walk after a busy day at the cafe. 

We couldn’t help but point out the absurdity of that fact that here we were walking in what was arguably a scene straight out of The Truman Show, while just a few miles away, protests were filling the streets.

But actually the deep divide between Glen Ellyn and Hyde Park is not an unknown entity. On any given day I could be pointing out that my friend and I are walking through the park on a beautiful sunny day, while my fellow Chicagoans in the city don’t enjoy the same kind of freedoms that I do.

But actually, today I only noticed the divide because of the protests. 

One could say that it takes a national uproar over inequality to interrupt my own reality. 

Friends and fellow small business owners who live, work and own businesses in the city are texting about feeling unsafe, having to board up businesses that they were just about to open back up, and worried about facing the loss of more revenue after three months of being closed due to the pandemic. 

And especially as a small business owner, my heart breaks for them. It feels absurd and it would be easy to double down and lash out in anger over such acts.

At the same time, these promptings, are only shedding more light on what is actually going on. I “feel” the injustice more-so when it is something I can directly relate to. But the greater task at hand is attempting to understand the injustice where I don’t relate. And right now, my heart truly breaks for the numerous humans that continuously experience inequality and injustice on a daily basis. I can only imagine the angst, frustration, and exhaustion. 

In a world of deep divides, it’s sometimes hard to remember that you can feel heartbroken for both of these. But the reality is that you can. And I do.

Deep breath.

With everyone at home, our family has been having more dinners around the table lately, where everyone is actually present. (Crazy, I know.) I’ve been grateful for the conversations that have emerged throughout this time, often prompted by the teenagers and twenty-somethings at our house. Last night, George Floyd, the LA/Watts riots, and subsequent protests were all topics of conversation. 

Around the table, we try to make space for everyone’s opinion. We want to listen. These moments at the table are sacred to us. Anna and I want to use our table as a place to continue to make space. 

This is also true for our tables at Blackberry.

If you walk into our third dining room in Glen Ellyn, there is a large scripted statement that we collaborated on with local Chicago artist Matthew Hoffman. It says “Make Space at the Table.” Many have asked about the impetus of this statement. 

In many ways, it’s a statement designed to show that we believe all humans have (and deserve) a space at the table – no matter their race, background, or current reality. It is also an invitation for us to be intentional about actually making this space. Lastly, the statement recognizes that the table has historically been a place where individuals are seen, heard, and (hopefully) understood.

So in our small way, we want to join in the global outcry of a desire for “being seen” and “understood.”

But quite frankly, from where we sit (in the suburbs), we want to simply pause and listen. We invite you to do the same. We want to resist attempting to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong (and by doing so, further deepening the divide we are already experiencing). At the same time, we also want to resist the urge to ignore. 

Anna and I have experienced first-hand the benefit of learning from those who are not just like us. We believe that this moment is an opportunity for this kind of learning. 

We invite you to join us in creating a little space at the table (wherever that may be) for such moments.


This series is written and maintained by Bob Davidson, who is the co-owner of Blackberry Market. His wife, Anna Davidson, is the other half and the “true boss” and primary operator. Bob’s prior occupation was a Creative Producer at a branding and strategic communications agency (responsible for Blackberry’s brand). As you may guess, Bob now oversees most of the writing, branding, and communication needs at Blackberry. 

 

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