FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/FOX24) — This week, the City of Fayetteville is celebrating Restaurant Week, a time to celebrate the city’s flourishing food culture.
Given that it’s also Black History Month, it’s also a great time to support local Black-owned food businesses and restaurants like Rollin’ in the Dough, based in Fayetteville.
For Danielle Henderson, owner of Rollin’ in the Dough, decorating cookies is more than just her job. She runs her business from her home kitchen.
“It’s a way for me to let my creativity out,” she said, adding how relaxing and mesmerizing doing the flooding icing technique is.
She started her cookie business in 2019. Previously, she worked as a registered nurse for eight years. She said she has always enjoyed working with her hands and had a passion for nursing. However, when COVID-19 hit and she was pregnant with her child, she said had to make a change and use her hands for a different skill.
“I was doing this on the side and I was like, you know what, let’s just stop nursing for a second,” she said. “When my business took off, I was like, that was what God had planned the entire time anyway.”
She said she was able to focus all her energy on Rollin’ in the Dough, and it paid off.
“I focused more on the content creating part of it, so I started a Tik Tok during the pandemic,” she said. “I went kind of full fledge with my Instagram and Facebook.”
Now she has 92,000 followers on her Tik Tok and more than 5,200 followers on Instagram.
However, not every Black-owned business was as lucky.
“Wuhan is my hometown, and it’s also the place where the first hotspot of cases occurred,” said Xiao Huang, who is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arkansas.
The pandemic hitting so close to home for Huang is what motivated him to study how COVID-19 impacted people. He said there are very few empirical studies looking at how Black-owned businesses were affected during the pandemic.
“So we started to investigate the visitation loss due to the pandemic,” he said.
He said he used data from the internet, like Yelp reviews and geo-tagged tweets, to track where people were going out to eat in 20 U.S. cities during the year 2020.
“In some cities, we noticed that the Black businesses experienced more visitation loss, significantly more visitation loss,” he said.
Henderson said she is glad that this is not the story for her business. She now works full time using her edible art to celebrate Black culture.
“Representation is huge because you don’t really see many African American cookie decorators,” she said.
It also wasn’t the story for all cities that Huang studied. He said Philadelphia was one city that saw an increase in traffic to Black-owned businesses.
He hopes we continue to recognize the power that big social data collected from mobile devices has on understanding the ways of the world.
“Most of the time, we ignored the potential of big geospatial data, but we can use that to review lots of inequity issues in the United States,” he said.
Henderson decorated a cookie that depicted a Black woman with her hair wrapped in a scarf.
“This was the cookie my daughter saw and she was like, whoa it looks like me,” she said.
She wants to inspire others to follow their dreams.
“Just find something you love to do and go for it and work for it no matter who you are or what it is,” she said.
Click here to go to Rollin’ in the Dough’s website.