E-scooter company Lime announced a Black History Month initiative to encourage riders to visit Black-owned businesses by offering discount codes. But the one business Lime partnered with in the Bronx is actually owned by a white family.
In a press release announcing the nationwide effort, Phil Jones, the company’s senior director of government relations and chair of Lime’s Black employee resource group, said the company is on a mission to “drive more traffic to Black-owned, sustainable small businesses.”
“We’re giving riders discount incentives to visit these incredible organizations, building community and supporting black owned businesses, all while boosting the local economy,” said Jones. “We invite everyone to celebrate this important month with us by supporting local black owned businesses.”
The initiative gives riders 25% off their next ride if they end their journey within 100 meters of Black-owned businesses across the country that the company is partnering with this month.
In the Bronx, Lime announced that it is partnering with the Way Cafe in the Castle Hill section. But the cafe’s owner Andy Weaver, who moved to the Bronx to do Mennonite church outreach about 5 years ago and owns the cafe with his family, told the Bronx Times he is not Black. He said Lime approached him to fill out a form about the business, and while Weaver responded, he didn’t expect to qualify for the program.
“I figured they are going to throw our form in the trash can,” he said.
Lime did not actually ask whether the cafe is owned by a Black person, according to Weaver. The company did, however, require him to send a photo of the business owner, so he sent a portrait of himself — a white man.
Yet the e-scooter company chose the cafe as its sole partner in the Bronx for the initiative.
The cafe opened in 2020 “with the intent of serving and positively interacting with a community in the Bronx,” with the mission to operate “in a way that reflects the love and servant-hood of our King Jesus,” according to the business’ website. While the cafe is privately owned, the majority of its workers are affiliated with the Light of Truth Mennonite church in Clason Point. Mennonites have similar core beliefs to the Amish, though they tend to be more open to technology, Weaver said.
“We need to love loving everyone regardless of race, cultural background, etc., and I do believe that we are all equal,” he said.
City Councilmember Amanda Farías, a transit advocate whose district includes the cafe, told the Bronx Times that while Lime made an “unfortunate mistake,” she is in support of the idea of promoting local businesses.
“I frequent there myself,” she said of the Way Cafe. “And so they are in a Black and Latinx community where they’re serving our families every day. They’re in the community with us.”
That being said, if Lime consulted with Farías’ office, she could have given recommendations, like Melanie’s Roti in Castle Hill or Taste So Good in Soundview.
The NYC Small Business Services launched an effort in 2019 called BE NYC — which stands for Black Entrepreneurs NYC — dedicated to advancing Black entrepreneurship. According to the agency, just 3.5% of NYC businesses are Black owned, compared to the city’s Black population of 22%.
A map created as part of a 2021 Black History Month campaign features Black-owned businesses throughout the city, including several in the East Bronx area with Lime e-scooters, such as Cea-Lo Cafe in Soundview, Jenny’s Roti Shop in Unionport and Juices For Life in Castle Hill and Schuylerville. The effort also links to various guides that list Black-owned businesses in the city.
Lime is one of three companies participating in the NYC Department of Transportation’s two-year East Bronx e-scooter pilot, which launched in summer 2021.
BE NYC declined to comment for this article.
Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes