Meet Lee and Betty Davis

Photo credit: Ruth-Marie Frances Chambers

 

For the Love of Africa

It all started with an interest in African Goods. But in 1972, Lee and Betty Davis (affectionately known as Miss Betty and Mr. Lee) took a month-long trip to Ghana and fell in love with the colors, the art, the people, the country. While there, they made the first of what would turn out to be many purchases.

They started going to trade shows, buying Black greeting cards, black art, black collectibles, and would store the items at home wherever they could find space–in the living room, on the couch, under tables–and people would come over and buy things.  Miss Betty: “…and eventually Lee said ‘you need to get this stuff out of the house!'”

The First Culture Collection

betty davis standing in front of the first culture collection store
The first Culture Collection, in Florin Mall.
The second store in the Florin Mall

What followed was a series of contacts that eventually led to the first Culture Collection retail store, opening at the Florin Mall Shopping Center in November 1992. It was the first African American retail store in Florin Mall at the time.  Miss Betty became the face of Culture Collection, and the store attracted people from the Bay Area, Modesto, and all around California. It was a huge success. Offering quality products, huge inventory of both African and African-American merchandise, and excellent customer service, this family business quickly built up a very loyal following and a stellar reputation within the Community. But most importantly, they were a source of Community pride.

Miss Betty: “People would come to the store as if on a field trip–bringing children and pre-school kids, and they would look at all the different things–the figurines, the art, the books…and one little girl said ‘the books are black, the little figurines are black, the pictures are black, and even the people that work here are black…’ (lol!)”

They were there for 13 years, and only left because the mall was closing down. Miss Betty: “We were one of the last ones to leave, just before the bulldozers came lol!”

Mr. Lee: “To the very last days, people were coming up (to the store) trying to buy something. So we had a very loyal following…and we felt really good about the positive response we got.”  Following the closure of Florin Mall, Mr. Lee and Miss Betty stored their huge inventory in storage and took to vending for a while as they went looking for suitable space. “looking for a place to go, but didn’t find anything (right) off hand…”

Our New Home

Inside the current home of Culture Collection

The store had temporary locations at the Riverside Plaza (located at Riverside and Florin Road) and the Kuumba Collective Gallery, located on Del Paso Blvd. But ultimately they decided to go back to vending until they found the right space.  That space came in the form of their present location at 6965 Luther Drive, Suite 3, Sacramento, CA 95823.

This location not only has the much-needed retail and storage space, but also space where community gatherings and small events can be held. But for Mr. Lee and Miss Betty Davis, it’s always about giving back to the community.

Culture Collection vending