Creative arts store in Hanes Mall is a big hit

Creative arts store in Hanes Mall is a big hit
September 09
10:52 2021

Winston-Salem is known as the City of Arts and innovation. BlakeRyan, a lifestyle brand, is a store in Hanes Mall that truly embodies the city’s motto.

“Our goal is to bring out the creativity in all of our customers,” said BlakeRyan co-owner and executioner, Domonique Williams. “We’re mostly well known for our custom artwork and custom furniture. However, we also give artists a platform to sell their artwork through our store, as well as local vendors that have created homegoods’ type of items to sell their items through our store also.”

As a Black woman, Williams stated she naturally gravitates toward artists and vendors of color, especially African Americans, but feels BlakeRyan is a brand that is tailored for all people of a creative nature to showcase their artistry and creativity.

“It’s more geared towards the creativity aspect, but being that I am a Black woman, I feel that it’s natural that I am more apt to support Black artists and Black vendors,” she said.  “It is more about if you fit with our brand identity.  Naturally, African American people are just very creative people, so we have five vendors in our store local to Winston-Salem and four out of the five are African American.”

BlakeRyan currently has two locations, the one in Hanes Mall, as well as a new store in Rochester, New York.  Williams and her co-owner, Ryan Ilgi, came up with the idea of the brand in 2016 and opened their first store the following year.  

Not only does BlakeRyan sell artwork and custom furniture, they also host paint and sips, children’s art classes, art galleries, and even fashion shows.

“We just kind of do what makes sense, because it’s such a creative space,” she said about the brand. “It opens it up to where we can do so much more than your normal retail store.”

BlakeRyan has been at their Hanes Mall location since 2018. Williams feels they are just scratching the surface of what they can do in this market. Of course, like all businesses, the pandemic did not help matters, but they are finally getting back on track.

“I think business has its ups and downs, especially with the recent pandemic, but I think we are getting back to where we are getting more mall traffic and our sales are starting to reflect that a little more,” Williams continued. “More people are wanting to get out of their homes and socialize with one another. It’s definitely had its ups and downs, just with malls in general, but Winston-Salem has been very good to us.”

Instead of just waiting for the pandemic to end, Williams used the time to begin creating a BlakeRyan app to add to their business model. Williams also wants to continue holding creative events for the people of the city to enjoy.

“We are going to continue to look for different places to put a BlakeRyan, so we can have more people enjoy the concept,” she said.

Every business runs into speed bumps here and there as they grow. Williams knows the difficulties of being a minority entrepreneur, as well as being a female in the business world. She likes to think optimistically when it comes to business and hopes the fact she is an African American woman isn’t a reason BlakeRyan doesn’t thrive in the future.

“I think that is always a challenge and you have to try and think ‘Is this really happening,’ is it that I am self-conscious about being a Black woman, because it’s always in your face,” she said about being a Black businesswoman. “Not only are you a woman, but you’re a Black woman.  

“What I have kind of taught myself to do is just feed off of the positive energy and not really focus on the negativity, because it’s going to come regardless. But if I focus my time on positive energy and positive things, it’s only going to have a positive outcome.”

Williams hopes her story can be an inspiration to other young Black women who strive to own their own business. She says one of her goals is to be a positive light for young girls who look like her.

“I want to not only do well for myself, but I also want to open doors for other women, particularly Black women and Black people in general, because I want to reach back and bring my people along with me,” she said about inspiring others. “I definitely hope that I am an inspiration to somebody.”

Williams stated that BlakeRyan does not really have a target demographic. They initially attempted to figure out an audience to target, but their customer base is so diverse, it’s impossible to target one individual group.

“The thing about the concept is that we really don’t have to target a certain group,” she went on to say. “It literally is whatever inspires you; people connect with different items throughout the store, so we have been trying to drill down who is a BlakeRyan customer. But it’s just so diverse because people come in to enjoy the artwork, or people that want custom-built furniture, you have people that just enjoy the vibe and come to the event.  

“Some people just connect with different vendors throughout the store, so it’s really hard to drill down who a BlakeRyan customer is, but it really is about connecting to that creative spirit in everyone.”

BlakeRyan is on the lower level of Hanes Mall near Belk. For more information, please call 336-331-7337, or visit their website at

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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