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Hidden Treasures

Doing business in the inner city is a challenge, but the rewards are worth the effort.

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Say "inner city," and most people picture crime, decaying neighborhoods, drug dealers and poor people. Say those same words to Fred Westbrook Jr., and the Nashville, Tennessee, entrepreneur thinks pizza and profits.

"One day it just hit me," remembers Westbrook, 50, who lived in the area and worked as a teacher. "I was going to buy a pizza and said, `I wonder why nobody has opened a pizza franchise here.' "

Here was Jefferson Street--a neighborhood rich in tradition and enormous contrasts. On one hand, it's the place any African-American entrepreneur in Nashville thinks about when deciding to start a business. The area is also home to three historically black schools--Fisk University, Meharry Medical College and Tennessee State University.

Jefferson Street is also a place users go to purchase crack cocaine.

"It's no different from any other major city," contends Westbrook. "I think the perception [of Jefferson Street as a bad area is harsher] than the reality. I can't remember when there's been an armed robbery here." Confident he could succeed, Westbrook set out to open a pizza restaurant in his community.

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This article was originally published in the November 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hidden Treasures.

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