Several immigrant businesses forced to relocate in Brooklyn Park

Open signs are illuminated and business owners are hard at work at the Brooklyn Park Executive Center on Brooklyn Boulevard.

Clothing designers Barnabas Salim and Sarah Njoku are in high demand with wedding season underway.

“It’s the busiest time of the year,” said Salim. “Summer is the time when people are going out.”

They’ve created a community with other immigrant-owned businesses that operate out of the same building.

“If you ask any African person, do you know the brown building? They definitely know the brown building,” said Salim. “The thing for which for me is very important is the unity we created, the family we created.”

Property records show the building was sold in August. Now, Salim and Njoku say they’re being forced to relocate by the end of May.

“It was like a slap in our face just bringing this letter to us and saying to us that ‘Oh you guys have to move in two months,’” said Njoku. “That is so, so devastating.”

Njoku and Salim said they paid their rent throughout the pandemic. Kelvin Johnson, who runs a media company there, told us he also continued rent payments throughout the last two years, despite the challenges.

According to tenants, they were informed of the changes to their rental agreements in mid-March.

“Everybody was shocked and wondering what had happened,” said Johnson.

He opened RockSand Media at the Brooklyn Blvd. location six years ago. Other entrepreneurs have been there for decades. According to Johnson, about 15 businesses will have to relocate.

“It’s pretty devastating when you are a small business, a minority-owned small business it takes time to build your clientele,” he said. “How are they going to find you? It’s just like starting all over, building clientele, getting your old customers follow you to where you may go.”

Johnson is scrambling to figure out where to move. He just returned from a month-long trip to Liberia.

“If you look around my space, you can see how much equipment I have,” he said. “So how am I going to move it? Where am I going to move it? I’m not sure yet?”

Brooklyn Park Economic Development and Housing Director Breanne Rothstein told us the city is working to help them relocate.

“I think it’s an unfortunate situation,” said Rothstein.

She said the Brooklyn Park Development Corporation recently met to approve an emergency small business loan to provide each of these businesses with up to $5,000.

“We were able to quickly pivot,” said Rothstein. “To quickly provide access to money to secure a lease, or moving expenses, or for extra marketing expenses that these businesses might have.”

She said they’re also working to connect business owners with other property managers who can help find them a space to operate in the future.

“We place a huge value on our small businesses in our community because we know its livelihood for our residents as well as future jobs for other residents,” said Rothstein.

Johnson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he hopes the city’s help comes through.

“These small business owners are asking the City of Brooklyn Park to come to our rescue,” he said. “I really do not want to take my business away from Brooklyn Park but worst case scenario, most likely if I can find some place comfortable I think I’ll have to. But I don’t want to.”

Innovative Property Services lists itself as the property manager online. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to company several times. We did not hear back.