Black-Owned Hat Shop In Phoenix Chosen For ESPN NBA Finals Initiative

Black-Owned Hat Shop In Phoenix Chosen For ESPN NBA Finals Initiative

Straw and Wool, one of Phoenix’s premier Black-owned businesses, has captured the national spotlight and will be featured alongside other small brands as part of ESPN’s Championing Black Businesses initiative during the 2023 NBA Finals.

Despite opening during a tumultuous time in 2020, Ali Nervis and Henry Dickerson have become a mainstay in the bustling Roosevelt Row Arts District area. Down in the valley, Straw and Wool, known for its fedoras and newsboys hats, is getting increasingly popular.

“Black businesses are the heart of local communities across this country, and we’re committed to leveraging the power of our sports media platform to drive positive impact in those communities,” said ESPN vice president of sports marketing Emeka Ofodile. “Seeing the impact this program has made in the past three years fuels us to do more, and we can’t wait to get to work with our 2023 businesses.”

Black businesses as a whole account for only 1 percent of businesses in Phoenix, according to a report by the State of Black Arizona and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

Nervis and Dickerson are no strangers to the importance of upholding Black businesses in areas where they are less prevalent. The pair have owned and operated Archwood Exchange, a monthly marketplace for small Black-owned businesses, since 2017, according to Arizona Highways. Their experience in championing others helped them weather the storm of the pandemic and expand their own reach.

“When we started this business, we expected hat wearers,” Dickerson said. “But what we found was, the majority of people we ended up getting were first-timers — people who had never worn hats before and wanted to know what would work with their style.”

Known to Phoenix hat lovers as “hat heaven,” Straw and Wool is still in the process of providing products for every type of customer.

“The primary thing is knowing our audience, and that’s something we struggled with early on,” Nervis says. “We would only sell hats that we liked, and people would come in asking for different ones. We realized that not everybody thinks like us.” So they’re always recalibrating, with successful, stylish results.

Nervis and Dickerson hope that their turn in ESPN’s spotlight will bring more Black businesses to the Phoenix area.

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