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Burke & Black: A Black-Owned Business in the Heart of Civic Center

Burke & Black: A Black-Owned Business in the Heart of Civic Center
  • Elizabeth Grubb

Did you know that Black entrepreneurship is growing at rates higher than pre-pandemic levels, with Black women leading the way? As we celebrate Black Business Month, let us recognize the resilience and creativity of Black entrepreneurs who have persevered against all odds. Burke and Black, a Black, woman-owned catering business and a CleanPowerSF customer, is known for artfully prepared grazing tables, boards, and boxes. You can find them in Civic Center, just a block from the SFPUC’s 525 Golden Gate office building.  

Burke and Black’s story begins with its co-founder Nicole Burke and her passion for all things in the restaurant business. After gaining restaurant experience in many different roles on both coasts of the United States, she decided it was time to open her own catering business in her hometown of San Francisco. 

Burke has a keen eye for detail, infusing every board and box with complimentary flavors and the freshest of ingredients. Attention to detail extends to the caterer’s sustainable business practices. She exclusively uses compostable packaging or reusable glass jars – no single-use plastic here! They buy local produce as much as possible, and they’re powered by CleanPowerSF’s clean energy mix. Burke mentions her commitment to sustainability is rooted in her desire to build a greener future for her two young children. 

Burke & Black: a Black-Owned Business in the Heart of Civic Center

Not long after opening in 2019, COVID-19 stay-at-home orders were issued in San Francisco and across the globe. Naturally, this was a daunting time for businesses, especially in the food industry. Burke credits her business’ survival and success with her grazing boxes, a smaller, portable version of her grazing platters. Each box includes an array of cheeses, fresh fruit, house-made compotes, and crackers.  

The boxes were the perfect antidote to social distancing – patrons could enjoy the boxes at home or distanced picnics in the park. Many businesses sent them to employees to enjoy at remote events. Before the pandemic, these boxes were a small fraction of sales, but the grazing boxes became a driving source of revenue and a local hit. Burke says that the popularity of the grazing boxes helped Burke and Black make it through the roughest points of the pandemic that shuttered so many businesses. 

Another factor helped Burke and Black make it through the pandemic: an article by the San Francisco Chronicle. The article, published in the summer of 2020, listed Burke and Black in a directory of Black-owned restaurants and catering businesses. Burke remarks that once this article was published, the business received an outpouring of support and grazing box orders. 

The pandemic was particularly devastating for Black-owned businesses. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) explains that Black entrepreneurs were already struggling prior to the pandemic due to wealth inequality and a lack of support from financial institutions. These economic conditions only worsened with the pandemic: 40% of revenue for Black-owned businesses came from sectors that were hit hard by COVID-19. To make matters worse, many Black businesses did not receive any relief or aid from the federal government due to preexisting economic conditions.  

That’s why patronizing Black-owned businesses and spreading the word can have a huge impact. Reflecting on the San Francisco Chronicle article and all the business it attracted, Nicole Burke shares, “I really appreciate people supporting my small business. The support allows me to take care of my family and my community here in San Francisco.” 

This Black Business Month and every month, be sure to support Black-owned businesses for everything from catering, fitness, pet care, and more!