State Fair of Texas

State Fair of Texas Aims to Include More Minority Businesses and Concessionaires

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The Smoking Jacket Cigar Lounge has made its mark in Cedar Hill.

"I’ve been here six years and it has been amazing," Smoking Jacket Cigar Lounge owner Roz Stafford-Grady said.

But as an African American woman, Stafford-Grady's journey hasn't been easy.

"I had cigar lounges that were betting against me,” Stafford-Grady said. “I had people betting, 'Oh, she won't make it six months that she's in a man's game.'"

But she survived and is stepping up her game.

"I'm so overwhelmed,” Stafford-Grady said. “I had no idea that this was even possible for me to be at the State Fair of Texas."

She'll be the first African American to have a cigar lounge at the State Fair of Texas. It's part of the fair's mission of diversity, belonging, equity and inclusion.

"We need to make sure we have diversity and we are supporting small business owners of all backgrounds and ethnicities,” State Fair of Texas Senior Vice President of Public Relations Karissa Condoianis said. “This is something we are very intentional about at the fair."

There is also a Big Tex Masterclass for southern Dallas area businesses to help train them for events like this.

"They go through a curriculum, several months of curriculum, and then they are assigned to shadow one of our long-standing concessionaires at the fair and get to learn what it takes to set up a food booth," Condoianis said.

More than 45% of the concessionaires in 2021 were minorities.

As for vendors like Stafford-Grady she's already increased her inventory orders and staffing to make sure she makes the most of this opportunity now and in the future.

"Not a lot of people that drive from the northside to the southern sector to do business with us,” Stafford-Grady said.

“Now we are in a place where people are going to know us from everywhere, all parts of Dallas-Fort Worth. So, this is going to take the Smoking Jacket to a whole other level."

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