Welcome to the Transformation!

Several weeks ago I was blessed to be elected to the board of the Brookland Park Area Association.  The purpose of this association is to promote the business interests of the merchants in the Brookland Park Boulevard area.

As most of you know, we have prayed every week since last April for this four block stretch of our city.  We felt very strongly back in October that God was calling us to move our corporate offices to this corridor. Not because it is so distressed, but because it holds so much promise.

muddy road 2A few weeks ago, I spent the day at my property near Prospect Virginia.  We have a dirt road that has a crushed gravel surface.  The road has deteriorated over the years and there are a few parts that are now giant mud pits.  However, most of the road is fine.  So rather than pay someone to resurface the entire road, I spent four hours hauling rock from the side of our ridge to fill in the ruts.

As I was hauling rock, I was thinking about how this project resembles our work along Brookland Park Boulevard.  If you look at the neighborhoods bordering the commercial corridor, they are relatively healthy.  There is a sense of community pride and a healthy diversity of people of all races and financial means.  This is the neighborhood my husband and I want to live in for this very reason.

However, the commercial corridor itself does not reflect the health of the surrounding neighborhoods.  This once thriving business district has a vacancy rate of roughly 50%.  There is a perception of crime that keeps many neighborhood residents from even venturing into the area.  It is along this corridor where you will find many of the unemployed young adults loitering.  While the neighborhood is predominately seniors and working families, you would never guess that by looking at this street.

I fell in love with this corridor years ago when I used to drive back and forth between my facility in Highland Park and the seminary.  I have always felt drawn to the promise it holds.  While many of the buildings need a facelift, they have good bones and are filled with character.  Like the surrounding neighborhood, they are diverse.  Each one is unique and together they make for an interesting street scape.  While I have always appreciated architecture, the more interesting part of this strip is the fascinating people we have met.

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs.  My dad worked his way up from car hop to restaurant owner and started several restaurants in central Texas.  My mother has started multiple small businesses in her lifetime and still runs her own business.  Small business owners are some of the most courageous and pioneering people on the planet.  Those who choose to launch or move their businesses to this area of our city are even more adventurous than most.  They all see what those in cars speeding past don’t see – they see the future.

One of my favorite small business owners is Kelly Jones who is the founder of DaSpot Recording studio.  I am a pretty optimistic person but Kelly puts me to shame.  Last week he wrote a marketing blurb for our merchants association in which he stated that the area was thriving with major retailers.  I convinced him “thriving” was a bit of a stretch but conceded that “Family Dollar” and “Dollar General” could be considered major retailers.  People like Kelly give me hope for this area and that is why I am relocating here.  I want to hang out with dreamers like Kelly.

In my road construction project, there were some really deep ruts, so I hauled very large rocks, some as large as 9 inches in height and 12 inches in length and width.  People like Kelly are the big rocks this area needs.  His business is financially solid and during the two years he has been on Brookland Park Boulevard, Kelly’s bottom line has more than doubled.  We need more big rocks.

Kelly’s studio has a national draw and is not dependent upon foot traffic or neighborhood customers.  This is not the reality for most of our businesses.  They are barber shops, restaurants, thrift stores and small retailers.   They are not fairing as well.  In the short time we have been in the community, we have seen many start and then have to close their doors.  Like parts of my road, they feel like they are under water. just barely keeping their head up high enough to keep from drowning.

Kelly, who is the new Vice President of the merchants association, has a background in marketing and came up with a new tagline for the association which I think is brilliant.  It is “Welcome to the Transformation!”  While Kelly sees a glistening, thriving, vibrant neighborhood, he recognizes it is going to take us all working together to realize that dream.

So, will you join the transformation team?  There are three ways you can be a part of this transformation story.

  • You can pray with us any Thursday at 12:30, in our new location at 113 W. Brookland Park Boulevard.
  • You can support our local businesses.  We have some great thrift stores loaded with buried treasures, a renowned bakery, Panamanian cuisine, Chinese food, pizza, a fresh fish market and several other restaurants preparing to open in the coming weeks.
  • You can volunteer to serve on one of several teams that are being formed by the merchants association.  You do not have to be a member of the association to participate in these teams.  You simply have to have a desire to support the merchants in the area.  Please email me for more information at wendy@embracerichmond.org if you would be interested in helping with the marketing of the area, or participating in beautification projects or helping with special events.

Some day in the not too distant future, I do believe God will restore this area to its original splendor.  I am so thankful that we have a front row seat to watch God work.  I pray that in some small way we can help rebuild this road one rock at a time.

2 Comments On “Welcome to the Transformation!”

  1. We took Embrace’s tour of Brookland Park Blvd with Wendy on Saturday, and she is absolutely right! The sidewalks were void of litter, and there are some great shops that we did not have time to scope out; but we will be back! We also smelled some wonderful Jerk food cooking in a restaurant, and we all enjoyed delicious pastries from the bakery. Personally, I plan to come back and spend some time in the small shops, enjoy some Jerk Chicken (which I LOVE) and splurge on that Seven Layer Cake that I was eyeing in the bakery!!

    • Brenda,

      Thank you for the great promo! Please do come back. I hope you and Sue can join us for our Thursday prayer. On nice days we do a walking prayer but it sounds like this week that is unlikely.

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