New Jersey native launches "The Masked Melanin Market" to revive the economic outlook in Camden

CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- During a time when many businesses are struggling to survive, one New Jersey resident is stepping up, to help revive the economic outlook in the city of Camden.

Tawanda Jones is the founder of the Masked Melanin Market, an initiative launched to bring small businesses under one roof, and help get the neighbor economy back up and running amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When we first started, this vision came from no other but God," said Jones.

Jones says she's thankful that when this thought came to her, she was able to bring it to fruition.

"'How was I going to go about doing this?' So it basically was just a thought," added Jones.

A thought that later blossomed, bringing other local businesses in participation, for the market's first-week launch on August 30, in the heart of Camden on South Broadway.

But as Jones describes, the launch location wasn't as welcomed among other Camden neighbors, which left Jones with a decision to find a solution.

"It was working well in Waterfront South for a little bit, but then the neighbors were complaining that there were too many people in front of their residence, said Jones. "So I said 'OK' I don't want to cause any issues let me move on or see what else is out there."

That's when Jones says officer Gabriel Rodriguez and Chief Joesph Wysocki of The Camden County Police Department presented the Waterfront as an alternative.

"It's really been exciting, with what Tawanda is going," said chief Wysocki. "She was able to do it down on Broadway, and it was extremely successful. She may have outgrown the area down there, so to be able to come down here it's really been tremendous I think for the city."

Officer Rodriguez, who refers to Jones as 'family' said, "When she first started this out on Broadway I think it was a wonderful event. In the community, bringing the folks out during this time of crisis, time of need. To get people to come here outside where they're safe and can make a couple of dollars, it brings hope."

Jones has also been an active leader for the youth, serving as the Camden Sophisticated Sisters drill team founder for over 34 years.

Even when faced with obstacles back in 2014, when their original practice facility was permanently shut down, Jones continues to persevere, being a resource the community needs.

"Bringing all these beauty folks together, there's a bigger vision here. This is like phase one," said Jones.

The Masked Melanin Market is scheduled for each and every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 2 Riverside Drive Camden, New Jersey.

Other small businesses are encouraged to join, with only a $40 vendor entry. You can find out more here.
Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.