African American businessmen launch first of five stores in the ‘hood
‘We want to control our own money’
By Chinta Strausberg
Following his dream, Harold Davis, president of the “79th Street Indoor Mall, 1706-08 East 79th Street, Chicago, Illinois, has opened one of several one-stop-shop stores located in the black community he says will give an economic boost, pride and jobs to African American neighborhoods and where you can also pay your bills and buy your Mother’s Day and gifts right in the ‘hood.
When you walk in the store, you’ll see a table of brand new shoes, that cost $60.00, and boots for $40.00, both made in Ethiopia. There is another table full of exotic female underwear, shelving full of household goods, clothing for men and women, an array of cell phones, cleaning items, Pampers, car products, body oil, drugstore items with more products on the way including a coffee shop complete with Wi-Fi service.
“We are a Wi-Fi hot spot on 79th Street which means anybody can come here with their computer and hook up and work from the building” just like other popular coffee places, said Davis. “We want to be like the dollar store, but we have many more items.”
On the cell phones, Davis said he carries the brands of 15 different carriers. “You can pay your light bill, your phone bill and your cable bill and 500 other bills at this store.
“We have computers coming in for kids to do their homework, but adults will have to pay for working on the computers,” said Davis.
Included under this one-stop-shop business concept are incubator spaces for those people who want to start up a business but can’t afford a store. “You can come in for $175.00 and share space with somebody, but if you want your own corner, that will cost $300 a month,” said Davis. “That gives you up to ten copies on the copy machine, access to a fax machine and free Wi-Fi. You don’t have to go out and pay $1300 a month to get visibility. It will be your office.”
Davis is in partnership with several African American entrepreneurs including Al Perkins, the vice president, Herbert Hedgeman, Kublai Toure, and Mark Hines.
Al Perkins, who is one of several investors, said, “We intend to expand this one store into one of five or six stores in the black community. We are working on that now. It’s going to be a neighborhood store,” he said explaining that more products are on the way including the popular beauty products, stockings and other items.
When asked why is he one of the investors, Perkins said, “We need to control our economy. We bring millions of dollars into the community every week but it is taken out the same day,” he said referring to other ethnic businessmen and women who operate stores in the African American community and take with them the proceeds to areas where they live. “We don’t control any of that money,” Perkins said.
Some of the proud vendors are Rev. Willie McGee, who has a Wednesday 8 p.m. gospel show on WGBX and on Tuesday’s through Friday’s 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Lonnie Lewis, an author and entrepreneur and Sembend Nathanyahu who is the lead vocalist for the Black Elegance vocal group he began in 1976 and the African Connection Discussion Club.
Former Water Reclamation District Comm. Patricia Horton said, “This is a product of what we’d like to see in our communities and in our neighborhoods—black businesses. I’d like to think of this as being a launching board of many more businesses to come. Some would think of it as being a community mega ball or an incubator for those launching off their businesses.”