Breana and Diana Baye are the owners of Vault + Vine, a coffee, plant and gift shop recovered from the brink of shutting down. The shop, which is based in the East Falls area of Philadelphia, was almost lost to the whims of inflation before the sisters, who were once patrons of the store themselves, took over. So far, Vault + Vine continues to remain a community gem, while the new founders commit themselves to supporting Black women-owned businesses.

“Taking on V+V came from a few things. We were both tired of working for companies where we didn’t feel valued, so we had discussed working for ourselves, but never really had a plan,” the sisters and co-owners told 21Ninety. “When we saw the sale listing I knew it was V+V. I had ties to this place as a regular customer. I used to bring my children here for hot chocolate after school and I even taught ‘Zumbini’ upstairs for a short time. Breana liked the idea of running our own business, but really she did this for me. I’ve wanted to own my own café for a while but never actually pursued it. After speaking with Peicha (the previous owner) it was made plain that if the business were not sold, it would simply close, for good.”

For Diana, there was also a bit of an emotional connection to her decision to buy and restore V+V.

“I didn’t want to see the place close,” she said.

Learning New Ropes

Since rescuing V+V, the sisters have had to orient themselves with what it takes to run a shop.

“Learning the ins and outs of running Vault + Vine has been challenging, to say the least,” Diana explained. “Every aspect, the café, greenhouse, retail and floral departments, all have different needs, vendors to foster relationships with and rules and regulations, and to be honest, they all have different types of clientele. On top of that, I didn’t realize how much politics play a part in the day-to-day running of a business. There are neighborhood committees, building and zoning committees, business associations and actual city and state politics to contend with.”

Diana says the shop was also in severe disrepair before they took it on.

“It was like the previous owner was holding everything together with duct tape and took it with her when she left. In the first three months two separate sinks broke, our ice machine went down in the height of the summer, the refrigerator started leaking, two of our vendors stopped delivering, and our water filtration system sprang a leak in three different places back to back,” she said.

After overcoming all those hurdles, Diana said the sisters faced a break-in where someone shattered the shop’s front door and destroyed the café’s register.

We also ended up with a huge hole in our greenhouse floor and had to close it down for repairs,” she said. “Then on December 5th, we got a notice that the next day the street would be closed for a water main replacement project that would last until December 21st (our entire holiday season). That project actually lasted through April, which affected our holiday, Valentine’s Day and inched into our Mother’s Day seasons; the biggest holidays that actually keep us afloat.”

The duo says they lost a lot of business. Their pleas for help from politicians and elected officials were unsuccessful. Through their hard work and diligence the sisters were able to stay afloat during those hard times.

On Supporting Black Women

Diana tells 21Ninety that V+V’s commitment to supporting Black women is deeply important to the enterprise. The shop stocks products made by Black women, opening them up to new clientele.

“We are painfully aware of how underrepresented, underfunded and under supported we are. We both knew and met amazing black woman entrepreneurs and that made it easy to be deliberate about supporting others who look like us. And to be honest, like-minded, hard working individuals tend to cross through the same circles so if we needed a new vendor all we had to do was ask someone we knew and like magic there was a dope black woman who could fill that void,” Diana explained

Diana shares that V+V will continue to hire Black women as contractors, promote and highlight them whenever possible. She says the business will also collaborate on projects and support Black women personally by purchasing their products and attending their events. Ultimately though, Diana hopes that V+V will continue to be a safe space for its patrons.

“ I hope that V+V has come to mean peace, comradary, acceptance and community. But above all, I hope that it represents safety. We have worked really hard to make sure everyone feels welcomed and supported here,” she says.