On the first Wednesday of every month, the family law office of Phillips & Peters celebrates Women Crush Wednesday! These are not sponsored or paid posts – just women business leaders we love to support that are crushing it in Hampton Roads.
For decades there has been a concerted effort to boost the reputation of Downtown Norfolk. Today the city can boast many vibrant improvements. If you’ve enjoyed any of the vibrancy that can be found in the Neon District or the community initiatives from Grow, then you’ve experienced the work of Careyann Weinberg. Currently, Ms. Weinberg is the Retail Director of Selden Market. The incubator market found a home in the historic Selden Arcade. Over the past three years it has grown into a staple of the Downtown community thanks to the effort and hard work of Careyann.
Careyann Weinberg has called Hampton Roads home since 2001. After receiving her degree in biology from Virginia Wesleyan University she found her way into operations when she got her foot in the door as an office manager at Grow. Grow is a local digital agency and one of the gems of Norfolk that has a “movers and shakers” reputation. It was at Grow that Careyann gained the experience and connections she needed to thrive as an organizer of artists and ideas.
After her time at Grow, Ms. Weinberg went on to serve as the first interim Executive Director of the Neon District. She admits, “I’m not great with coming up with the ideas but I can easily take someone else’s stuff and perfect it. Artists are notoriously not organized and I’m good at that stuff. I can help push and polish ideas and projects.” She did creative consulting on the side while also starting Alchemy NFK and Work Release. Each of these projects focused on the arts and gave the community more things to do and ways to connect.
Around this same time, Norfolk was seeing major growth with national brands. Caryeann remembers, “Hilton was opening. Waterside was opening. There was all this stuff down here. While I feel like those things are great for our economic development of Downtown, I also felt that was a whole lot of corporate stuff in the heart of our city. That made the Selden project really important to me.” It was then that she was brought in on the early planning stages with the Downtown Norfolk Council.
From the beginning, Selden Market was set to be an incubator program. “It is designed to push and further businesses that we believe in that would benefit from added education, mentorship, and exposure”, Ms. Weinberg explained. The market has done exactly that since its opening in 2017. Selden offers three levels for new businesses including pop-ups, incubator tenants, and mentor tenants. Hundreds of different pop-ups found space to sell their products while a rotating selection of tenants provides a diverse experience for every demographic. Selden has proven to be such a success and asset that in 2018 they received the Pinnacle Award. This recognition came from the International Downtown Association and is the highest honor in the industry.
On every level, Careyann was helping Selden Market accomplish its mission to incubate small businesses for the entire city. She created monthly events like Vintage Sundays, brought in delicious food vendors such as Slide Thru #Fam, and gave space to host educational talks and workshops. She was so busy that in 2020 she was all set to get an assistant to keep Selden on its successful track. And then COVID-19 shut down the world.
“It wasn’t easy and it’s still not easy” she shared while talking about the impacts of the coronavirus. Selden was lucky enough to modify their budget since they are operated through the Downtown Norfolk Council. They offered their tenants two months of free rent to relieve some financial burden and were flexible with their requirements of the stores. Careyann did whatever she could to promote the businesses as they adapted. She sent grants and resources for her tenants to take advantage of while she sat on hours of zoom calls and virtual meetings to gather ideas to conform to the new norm.
Selden has seen a little bounced back since COVID restrictions lifted and hopes to see even more with the fast-approaching holiday season. “I want to see this place full and popping all the time” Careyann shared, “Getting back to a vibrant market of people eating, drink, playing, having meetings…getting back to all that again is a goal.” Now more than ever is the time to support small businesses. We all know how easy it is to order from Amazon but supporting your local business owners keeps money in the community and therefore supports the community. And Careyann will be quick to tell you that you don’t have to leave your house to support:
Support goes a long way. You can buy online or even easier is sharing. That’s free. People aren’t aware of the businesses that are in their backyard. Wherever you can share the market or the places that you love, make sure to encourage your friends and family to shop in those places.
Even amid the uncertainty that is characteristic of 2020, Careyann has high hopes for the future of Selden. She is continually bringing in new businesses and discussed the potential of expansion in the future. As avid shoppers, supporters, and neighbors of the market we can’t wait to see how Selden moves forward and continues to provide vibrancy to the Downtown community. We are empowered by Careyann’s final charge that, “We are the fate of these businesses. We all are. If we don’t shop or share, they don’t stay around for long. Support our small businesses because they’re going to support you.”