Northeastern Valentine’s Day Marketplace supports Mutual Aid, small businesses

Quontay+Turner+and+Danita+Mends+pose+for+a+picture+at+the+Northeastern+Valentine%E2%80%99s+Day+Marketplace+Feb.+11.+%0ATurner+and+Mends+cofounded+the+Emerald+City+Plant+Shop%2C+one+of+the+local+small+businesses+at+the+Valentine%27s+Day+Marketplace.

Photo courtesy Quontay Turner

Quontay Turner and Danita Mends pose for a picture at the Northeastern Valentine’s Day Marketplace Feb. 11. Turner and Mends cofounded the Emerald City Plant Shop, one of the local small businesses at the Valentine’s Day Marketplace.

Gray Timberlake, news staff

Students lined up outside of the tents on Robinson Quad Feb. 11 to buy gifts at the Valentine’s Day Marketplace for loved ones while also supporting small businesses and benefiting Northeastern Mutual Aid. 

The tents housed four booths selling items like handmade crocheted jewelry, plants, roses, hot chocolate bombs, s’mores kits, Husky stuffed animals and beard care products. 

A portion of the proceeds from each purchase at the marketplace went to Northeastern Mutual Aid, a student-founded volunteer organization that provides relief and resources to support Northeastern students during the pandemic. 

“Mutual Aid is like a form of volunteerism, but it has a different structure where it’s more solidarity-based, so it’s a lot of person-to-person help,” said Madeleine Allocco, Northeastern Mutual Aid co-founder and fourth-year health science major. “NU Mutual Aid is primarily students helping students, and other Northeastern community members including faculty and staff.”

Not only did the proceeds from each sale benefit Mutual Aid, but the marketplace also helped support local small businesses. 

One of the shops featured crocheted jewelry handmade by Nadya Shabashova, a student in Northeastern’s graduate certificate program. Shabashova typically sells her jewelry online through an Etsy shop, “HappyHourOfCrochet,” making this her first time selling her jewelry in person. 

“During [the pandemic], people started to search more online, so that helped with sales,” Shabashova said. “However, most of what I make is statement jewelry, and now that people can’t go out as often they don’t search for statement jewelry anymore, so my sales have been a little bit down lately.”

While many small business owners have recently changed the way they sell products, this was not the case for Quontay Turner and Danita Mends, founders of Emerald City Plant Shop, as they founded their business in the midst of the pandemic.   

“I had a deep love of plants that exploded in the last two years, and I noticed that during quarantine people needed some more green in their lives,” Turner said. “It’s been nice to be able to test run a business idea during [the pandemic], because if we can make it work during [the pandemic], we can definitely make it work during normal times. It hasn’t been as cumbersome as I thought it would be, and I think that’s because we’re starting something new versus changing something that already existed.”

Emerald City Plant Shop primarily sells online in addition to pop-ups in stores and markets, including the Valentine’s Day Marketplace, which was the shop’s most successful pop-up, Turner said. 

Some of the marketplace vendors were curated through Black Owned Bos., a platform founded by Northeastern alum Jae’da Turner to highlight Black owned businesses, places and spaces in Boston — including Emerald City Plant Shop, which is owned by two Black women. 

“In doing some research, there are no Black-owned plant shops in Massachusetts at all,” Mends said. “There’s a need for it. We’re going to be the first Black-owned, woman-owned plant shop in New England.”

Black Owned Bos. has a directory with over 500 Black-owned businesses in the Greater Boston area. One such company is Beard & Buttah, an all-natural beard and facial care company, which was also selling products at the marketplace. 

“We’ve worked with Northeastern through their Black Student Organizations and that’s how we were able to sell for this marketplace,” said JeQuan Norris, founder of Beard & Buttah. “We mostly sell online and on our Instagram with a few pop-ups, so this Valentine’s Day Marketplace was a great opportunity.”