Visitors Center adds diverse products in time for holiday shopping

VisitLEX today announced it is making the 15% Pledge to dedicate 15% of its shelf space in the Visitors Center to Black-owned businesses.

Products will include spices, toiletries and candy from area Black-owned businesses.

“We are proud to join the 15% Pledge,” said Mary Quinn Ramer, President for VisitLEX. “Not only will it give these local entrepreneurs more visibility for their products, but it will also enhance the experience of everyone entering our Visitors Center by showcasing all that our community has to offer. And by working with our partners at Black Soil, the process was streamlined and uncomplicated. We hope that everyone will enjoy these products and incorporate diversity into their shopping this holiday season and throughout the year.”

The effort is collaborative partnership with Black Soil, Kentucky’s only agritourism company dedicated to reconnecting Black Kentuckians to their heritage and legacy in agriculture. The 15% Initiative cultivates the value-added product vendors in the Black Soil KY network, a statewide collective of makers, artists and vendors who represent the best of the Bluegrass region inspired by the Black Kentucky experience. 

Black Soil serves as the vendor relations manager and business incubator for the Black-owned agribusiness, food entrepreneurs, farms and makers participating in the 15% Initiative. Products are housed at the Black Soil Fulfillment Center/Global Headquarters on Loudon Avenue. 

“Black Soil is honored to expand our long- term collaboration with VisitLEX through the 15% Initiative. Our diverse and extensive network of KY based Black owned brands are the perfect starting point to engage and strategically source the program. It is our mission to perpetuate small scale businesses through structural incorporation and economic inclusion. We invite all Kentuckians and guests to our state to enjoy these high-quality products and brands," said Ashley Smith, co-founder of Black Soil.

Here are some of the products now available at the Visitors Center: 

  • Bee’s Body Butter: This line of skin care for the entire family is marketed as the “bee’s knees.” Facial soap and beard oil are among the grooming and facial care products from owner Bianca Brown, who is a Lexington resident. 
  • DB Bourbon Candy: Known known for its world-famous bourbon balls, this Frankfort-based business is believed to be the only African-American owned company of its kind in Kentucky. Owner Robyn C. Stuart, who is an Army veteran, started making candy at age 5 with her mother, the late Johnnye Smallwood Cunningham.
  • Healthy Grooming (H.G.) Products: These products are locally sourced and handcrafted by Lexington native and resident Rodney James. As a professional barber and educator, James meticulously designed the shea butter, botanicals and high-quality ingredients in the hand and body creams that will complement every avid traveler’s toiletries bag.
  • Love Simply Scrubs: Visitors and residents alike can scrub, soak and soothe their way through this new normal with an array of body scrubs and bath salts. As the brand owner and designer, Lexington resident Monica King painstakingly crafts and balances complex essential oils and fragrance notes for the customer’s enjoyment.
  • S’Hemply Made: Honoring the Black roots of Kentucky’s hemp industry, S’Hemply Made owners Sasha Johnson and C.J. Jones have developed a shea butter, hemp-extract infused product line. This skincare and lifestyle brand has versatile products for the entire family.
  • Sowful Blessings: Blending urban agriculture, nursing and herbalism, Jitana Benton-Lee handcrafts each spice, season and savory rice mix in her Sowful Blessings line up. Sourced from an urban farm in Lexington, these spice kits will liven up any meal.

The Visitors Center, located at 215 West Main St. in Courthouse Square, is open Friday, Saturday and Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Hours may vary in November and December. Call (859)233-7299 to confirm hours of operation.)

For more information, visit