Enclosed by state of Florida offices to one side, abandoned graffiti adorned buildings on the other and framed by newly built condominiums, the Blount Street strip is undergoing renovation .
The strip of businesses ranging from hair salons to a sandal shop sits on a low-traffic street located between Railroad Avenue and South Bronough Street, just across the train tracks after crossing FAMU Way. Besides offering Florida A&M students a diverse and accessible shopping experience, businesses along the strip also provide opportunities for business owners as well.
Entrepreneur and owner of Cedrick’s Hair Studio, Cedrick Malone, said owning a barber shop has been an objective of his since he began cutting hair as a teenager. Malone said he decided to focus on opening his own barber shop after touring with rapper T-Pain for two years as his personal barber. His Blount Street shop finally opened in March.
“A friend of mine, DJ Lil Boy, has a music studio next door,” Malone said. “He found his spot before I did and he referred me here. It was a good location.”
Talcor Commercial Real Estate took over management for the 38-leasable unit property on Blount Street in December 2009. Mark Frost, its property manager since March, said he is working with the property owners to update the building and make it as attractive as they can for the area and for potential tenants.
“It hasn’t been in our possession as managers for an extended period of time,” Frost said, “But we’ve began considering some capital improvement projects. We want to try and market the building as much as possible.”
Creating an identity for the plaza, aside from the state collection offices it “probably” once was, is top priority, according to Frost.
“We’re seriously considering trying to create an identity for the property,” Frost said. “We’re putting options out about signage next to Blount Street. Once we can name the center, then we can build on that foundation.”
Tony Jackson, owner of What’s Hot Cell Phones, Accessories & More, created a foundation for his business prior to extending it to Tallahassee in September 2009. Based out of Nashville, Tenn., Jackson said that his local business is an addition to a more grounded store he founded with his parents.
“This is a smaller store of a bigger concept,” he said. “Tallahassee is such a small city and there are not a lot of black-owned businesses, so we decided to open up our store here to see if Tallahassee can sustain cell phone accessory stores.”
Other business owners have found or are also looking for footholds in the center on Blount Street. Businesses like Cascade Property Services and Navigator Research Group are settled into the plaza while Colourful Coiffures: A Beauty Oasis is a newly-opened business seeking a foundation. However, many business owners worry the strip’s low visibility might affect publicity negatively.
As a new businessman in the area, Malone said it is better when someone recommends his shop to others. He has taken other steps to promote his company.
“In this location, I’ve found that not a lot of people know about the area,” Malone said. “We try to let people be more aware. Right now, the best thing is word of mouth. I’ve also been doing radio advertising and passing out fliers.”
In addition to his businesses website, Jackson has looked to the Internet for exposure.
“The main thing helping me especially in this economic climate, is Craigslist,” he said. “I post stuff everyday and I get loads of students that come through.” The visitors include students working on the Gaines Street project.
The renovation of Gaines Street has meant more exposure for businesses on Blount Street because it is often used as a detour street. Some owners are not happy about the newly increased traffic on the street.
Shannon Sullivan, owner of Sandal Beat on the All Saints Street portion of the road, relocated there after being based in a mall for five years. Sullivan said that speeding commuters make the street unsafe.
“I can’t say that I’m that positive about what they’re doing on Gaines Street,” he said. “It’s going to put a lot of cars on this street and unfortunately they’re commuting. This street isn’t made to be a commuting street and it’s going to become dangerous.” said Sullivan.
A neighboring beer and wine bar, Fermentation Lounge, has had continued success on the street for two years now.
“Construction has helped us out a little bit,” said Scott Hall, the bar’s owner. “We’re on a side street so people who hadn’t found us before will go off Gaines Street and find us. We are fairly maxed out as far as capacity and what we can do here.”
Others anticipate the renovations in the area will bring it success.
“We’re very optimistic about the property,” Frost said. “With the Gaines Street revitalization, as well as the Cascade’s Park Project getting ready to kick off to the west of Blount Street, we know it’s going to draw some people. Proximity-wise, it’s just a great position.”