Toni Reed

After a two decade television and film career in Chicago, Illinois, Toni Reed has decided to film a documentary on the women-owned businesses in Concord's historic downtown. 

CONCORD – She didn’t know what to expect when moving to Concord after restarting her producer career, but Toni Reed was surprised when a documentary opportunity found her.

She started her own production company Soaring Spirits Production LLC in Concord and began work on "Queens of Concord", a documentary on women owned businesses in the downtown historic district.

Reed had a long career as a producer in Chicago, Illinois. Her resume includes the PBS former affiliate WYCC station and the Emmy Award winning news and documentary show Minute by Minute.

After a brief hiatus, she decided to restart her career and moved to Georgia, but it never felt quite right she said. She was shocked to find it difficult to get back in the industry there, considering her long background.

After telling a friend she was considering moving back to Chicago, her friend suggested she give Concord a try.

It seemed like a bold move. Reed had no family in North Carolina, and she wasn’t familiar with the area. But after her friend gave a pretty solid pitch for the rich culture and arts in the Concord-Charlotte area, she decided to move.

“I said a prayer and came here. And in three months I knew this was going to be a better fit for me,” Reed said.

The defining moment that marked Concord as her home was when she walked into the Lotus Living Arts Studio in downtown. Yoga has been a large part of her life and seeing the studio brought a lot of comfort.

She joined the studio and made fast friends with the owner Vicki Geros. Through Geros, she became acquainted with other business owners in the downtown area and was pleasantly shocked to discover that most of the owners were women.

While talking with Geros one day she voiced her observation.

“I said that you all have a pretty good thing going here,” Reed said. “All of the businesses here seem to be owned or co-owned by women.”

Geros said she hadn’t even noticed, but yes, she was right. Reed kept thinking about it and got in contact with Johnson Bray, executive director of the Concord Downtown Development Corporation.

He found a few statistics that said about 80% of businesses in that 3-block radius were owned or co-owned by women. He also mentioned Neta Helms who owned the downtown shop Neta’s Children’s and Ladies Shop for over 70 years.

Finding out that the area had a long history of women owned businesses got Reed’s mind working.

“I am a story teller and there are certain things that when I hear them, my spidy senses tingle and I think, oh that's a good story,” she said.

From there she decided to make a documentary about the women owned businesses downtown. She bought equipment and went to work filming a short proof of concept video for the project.

She began by filming and interviewing the owners of 2 Gals Kitchen Mary Niemeier and Belinda Peetz.

“I was really impressed by the whole operation that they are able to have with just two waiters and three people working in the kitchen,” she said. “They have it down to a science. There was not one plate that came out of that kitchen that was not in pristine condition.”

After putting together the concept video, she started a GoFundMe campaign to help rise 20% of the funds needed for the project. She wants to have a full team working with her, but for right now, it is just her and a computer. But she doesn’t mind.

This story is one that speaks to her.

"As a woman, as a woman of color and as a storyteller, I am interested in stories that shine a light on what women are facing. We are not where we once were but we have so much further to go,” she said. “I want to find out what it is about downtown, historic Concord that makes it a place for women to be able to live out their dreams.”

While the coronavirus has put a pause on the project for now, she has turned the negative into a positive and is incorporating the pandemic into the documentary, showing how businesses are staying innovative.

Reed will continue work on the project once the state goes into later phases for reopening, but until then people can view her concept video and campaign at https://www.soaringspiritsproduction.com/