Shanti Mayers grew up on Queen Lane in Germantown. She learned how to play Double Dutch around the corner on Knox Street.
And now she’s opening up her own business, The Sable Collective, in the newly developed Fashion District in downtown Philadelphia. The Sable Collective is an independent fashion-and-lifestyle boutique curated for women of color.
“Growing up in Germantown really helped me become adaptable,” said Mayers. “I feel like because of my upbringing I can go into any setting with any kind of person and feel comfortable.”
The Fashion District is a major revitalization project that replaces the Gallery and opens up new retail including major chains, and a small space called Uniquely Philly that includes four independently owned businesses, three of which are owned by Black women.
Mayers understands the significance of The Sable Collective’s presence in the space. “I’m excited about opening in the new Fashion District because it’s another story of needed representation,” said Mayers.
“The Gallery was a place that youth, especially Black youth went and socialized and did a lot of their shopping,” Mayers said. “It was a place that catered to Black people. Now (that) the Gallery is being replaced … it’s important for The Sable Collective to be there right alongside H &M and other high end stores.”
Mayers knows that everything that went into her childhood and how she was raised goes into the process of opening the new business. She’s biracial, and had experiences from private schools like Germantown Friends School and public schools in the area. She lived near blocks where houses could sell for $300,000 right next to project high-rises.
“I experienced a lot of different things in Germantown. I saw violence and drug dealing,” she said.
She also sees the signs of gentrification in the neighborhood she grew up in — the influx of new coffee shops and rising rents. It’s two-fold, in her eyes. She sees the new spaces as places to build community, but also knows firsthand people who have lived in Germantown since she was young, who are now being forced out because of the higher rents.
There’s always been a disparity though, Mayers feels. It’s what we do with the disparity is what she thinks could help.
“It’s rich for possibility. We can come together, but the question is how do we engage? I’ve been here since I was seven and I’m 33 now. There’s always been differences but there wasn’t always engagement,” said Mayers.
“Engagement has to come first,”Mayers continued. “It’s not smart to come in with all these strategies before you engage . . . First engagement and then comes plans. That takes years.”