Harlem, NY, USA – November 6, 2020 – NiLu, Harlem’s black owned gift shop, founded by husband and wife Mark Pinn and Katrina Parris, spent two and a half years stifled behind scaffolding, an experience that most business owners in NYC are all too familiar with. Last November, it was finally stripped down, only to have Covid-19 sweep through the city a few months later. NiLu was approaching their 5th year in business and had planned an all-out celebration, but Covid-19 had other plans.
Mark and Katrina quickly realized they had to pivot to stay afloat, but they also realized that local artists and makers in Harlem were facing the same challenges. “With most maker’s markets closed or at limited capacity for health concerns, creators have been struggling to sell products. As we battle back from COVID we felt a need to create an opportunity for local makers, artists and musicians to rise with us,” said Mark of their open-air mini market, now open every Saturday and Sunday, from 12-5, on the sidewalk in front of their “scaffold free” storefront in Central Harlem.
NiLu’s mini “Harlem Village Market” features two to four different makers, artists or musicians each weekend, and is a warm welcome for Harlem locals re-exploring their neighborhood post quarantine. “Our community has struggled this year. We hope these pop up events are able to bring back some of the things we’ve been missing, all while supporting the artists and makers that make Harlem what it is,” Katrina adds, “When you purchase a product from a maker, you are directly supporting the community they come from, and others in that community,” says Katrina. It was important to Mark and Katrina that 100% of the market’s proceeds go to the artists. NiLu doesn’t charge makers fees or commissions to participate in the market. “We believe now is the time to pay it forward,” adds Mark.
Mark and Katrina started the markets hoping to bring traffic to the makers and to the shop, but they are finding that the markets are doing much more for the community than anticipated. “It’s always been our vision to create a space that celebrates us, advocates for us, and welcomes all who want to do the same. These markets are bringing us full circle back to that vision. We have created much more than a gift shop and we will continue innovating, creating, and working to keep this vision alive,” says Mark.
“Shop Nilu is a godsend providing a safe place for the Harlem maker community. It’s a testimony to their character and their commitment to this community. Harlem needs more heroes,” says Jenny Anne Hibbert, a maker and participant of a recent NiLu’s market. The markets will continue through the end of November, when Mark and Katrina will reassess how to keep the experience going through the winter.
Makers and artists interested in vending at the weekend market, can apply at shopnilu.com.
Founded in 2015, by a husband and wife team, NiLu is an online lifestyle brand and gift shop with a local retail experience built around community, culture, and craft. Named after their sons, [Ni]gel and [Lu]ke, NiLu specializes in curating purposeful gift-giving that features majority people of color from Harlem and beyond. Behind every unique product is an even better story.