Give Your Neighborhood a Facelift
When a neighborhood goes into decline, entrepreneurs have to decide whether to pack up and head for friendlier territory or stay and fight for their neighborhood.
For the Davilas, there was no choice. With a family history going back more than 100 years in the West Side of San Antonio, Texas, siblings Rosette Davila-Sargent, 44, and Rudy Davila, 38, are there to stay with Davila Pharmacy, which their father started in 1955.
Their once-bustling neighborhood began falling apart decades ago, with high crime rates and residences in disrepair permeating the low-income community. "[The residents] needed to see that someone cared about them," says Davila. "[Local economic development agency] Avenida Guadalupe came in and showed them they cared." Like his father, Davila served as board member and president for Avenida Guadalupe, which has spearheaded many revitalization efforts. Davila Pharmacy often donates money to community projects as well.
"We must stay in touch with what's happening in our neighborhood, [from] a business perspective of upcoming changes and to give back to the community that allows us to have a business here," says Davila, who projects sales of $16.1 million this year.
About half of Matt Revelli's storefronts are in San Francisco's Lower Haight district. Revelli began his apparel business, Upper Playground, in 1999 in part of a record store, a location with rent inexpensive enough to help Revelli ignore the area's high crime rates. Once his business began to take off, Revelli made a conscious decision to open more storefronts--including a women's clothing store and two art galleries--on the same block, rather than leave for a more stylish locale.
"We've taken ownership of our block, and the troublemakers have migrated to other areas," says Revelli, 34, who also has a thriving wholesale business and expects $7 million in sales this year. Revelli says his "worldwide brand" has become a destination, bringing new customers to the area. "And it's brought in other businesses that feed off the traffic."
Revelli often participates in the Lower Haight Merchants Association and recently funded 75 "Lower Haight" lamppost banners designed by Upper Playground-affiliated artists. "We spend the majority of our lives in this area," says Revelli, "and it's really in our best interest to make the neighborhood as great as it can be."
If you find that your neighborhood needs a facelift, joining forces may be your best bet. "It can be difficult for individual business owners to stave off the decline of their communities alone," says Denise Scott, managing director of the New York City office of Local Initiatives Support Corp., an organization that offers financial and technical assistance to local community development corporations. "By working together with local civic organizations and forming alliances among local business owners and community groups, entrepreneurs can find collective solutions and help increase their voices and influence."