To Top

Meet Renee Quarles of Shades of Afrika in Long Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Renee Quarles.

Renee, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Shades of Afrika Began in 1992 and by 1994 we opened our doors in Downtown Long Beach, giving our first location 16 years. It Started with as few as 6 to 8 book titles, incense, bath soap & shampoos. Welcoming in the local artisans of everything from jewelry designs, ceramics and even offering a children’s class of the arts each week we found lots of families willing to teach their skills to our youth… The kids learned that they too could create something others would buy at a good profit to them… Our staff at the time was just 2 persons. Shades gave poetry reading’s, lectures and Yoga stretch & breath weekly… as it does even now…

Today, Shades of Afrika is resting & owning it’s 4 unit commercial building @ 1001 East 4th Street, Long Beach, 90802. with a natural hair salon creating 3 new jobs and the presentation room for all our events.

Our Book Room now with over 300 titles in stock, custom framing as a service provided, and the beauty supply department is to die for. It also includes holistic food powders to boost the nutritional value to every client and family member… essential oil, body oil and incense counter’s all touch the hearts and minds of many. Gifts from around the world… after all Shades of Afrika is the mind, body & spirit store… every product is intended to do just that… We wish all our families wellness in every way including economics. Better quality & value.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The first 8 years were the hardest, a few break in’s and the disrespect of local’s but nothing a girl like me can’t handle.

Or perhaps it’s the part where the City of Long Beach decided to eminent domain the whole 4 blocks. Asking all 8 of my neighbors in business to pack up and move over the re-developers were coming. This was heart breaking to so many, more then a few of them did not reopen.

I fought back the only way I know how and that’s not to let you have your way when your beating me up. Meaning, instead of my company going where the City suggested we consider leasing at 8 to 10 thousand a month I might add. From some previous developer, I would not give them the satisfaction of assisting me in any way.

It took me 2 years to find this location at a much better monthly price I might add… and the same vacancies that existed then do now with even more avail-abilities all around them. The City means itself well, not the small businesses here. I would have been a fool to go where they send me, when kicking me out of what we called home 16 years. It’s not very business friendly and it still does not have an African American Art presence in it’s Art District.

Shades Of Afrika found it’s corner at 1 Block East of it’s Art District and it’s doing fine arts daily. Give thanks to the spirit of my own ancestors for giving me the fight in me to survive life & business

Please tell us about Shades of Afrika.
Shades of Afrika is the Home of over 300 book titles, custom framing, arts prints and limited editions, collectibles, wood carvings from around the world, every where I’ve traveled.

It has a considerable beauty supply department without waiting for any boats, all directly from the makers, that’s what sets me apart from the rest. You will not find what I carry in any CVS or beauty supply store.

We have a Natural Hair Salon on site with 3 stylist to serve you. we have holistic nutritional food powders, essential oils and remedies, body oils and home aroma oils all made here locally. Stimulating our own economy is what we have in mind when bringing things to the counters.

Jewelry designers and leather works created by local artisans… musical instruments for our youth and adults. Tapestries and documentaries.

The events include but are not limited too the Griot Cafe Open Mic & Poetry Saturday Nights, Sunday Morning Meditation & Yoga, and Thursday Night Lectures and Study Groups. All are the heart beat of Shades of Afrika.

I’m most proud of our 2nd location now 7 years old and doing very well. It’s IE Shades of Afrika, serving the Inland Empire. It too has the services we provide in custom framing and it has a salon inside.

I’m now considering our 3rd location perhaps Lake Elsinore or surrounding areas. We shall see what the people want and be happy to do it.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Learning to swim, picking the fresh plums and peaches, The Old Pike of long beach, the parks all day in the sun… roller skating and swimming were my favorites.


  • Shades of Afrika Offer’s Gifts & other Items From $5.00 to $1,500

Contact Info:

  • Address: Shades of Afrika
    1001 E 4th Street,
    Long Beach, CA 90802
  • Website:
  • Phone: 562 436-2210
  • Email:

Image Credit:
Top Left: Happy Shopper, Top Right: Ms. T. Merriweather, 2nd Left: Food 4 Thot & I, 2nd Right: T. Merriweather Showing off Her New Purchase 3rd Left: Community Giving Thanks, 3rd Right Professor Hanif & I, 4th Left Mz. Tina One of our Stylist, 4th Left: Support Staff & Stylist Meeting

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in