After nearly a year of negotiations and renegotiations, entrepreneur Tony A. Reimonenq Jr, his wife, and his three sons have purchased a 20-unit strip mall in the Oak Grove community of Hattiesburg, Mississippi that they will transform into a local version of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Historic Greenwood District also known as the original Black Wall Street.With this purchase, the family has become one of the state’s arguably three percent of African Americans to have ever independently brokered a million-dollar deal. The establishment will be named Greenwood Plaza, and it is the second major commercial expansion of their family-owned firm, Reimonenq & Co LLC.
The purchase is another step closer to the Reimonenq family’s mission of recasting the historic Black Wall Street of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District as well as the unsung Black Wall Street of Mound Bayou, Mississippi. The family wants to follow suit in empowering and equipping individuals to become entrepreneurs.
“I’ve always had a heart to help others succeed, but to do that I first had to succeed,” says Tony, who is CEO of the family business. “I’ve dreamed of having a location from which others like myself can work and draw inspiration from Tulsa’s Greenwood District.”
“I want to empower the people at the bottom of the pyramid who just need an opportunity,” he added. “They aren’t lazy. They work hard but just haven’t learned how to win yet. I know how and want to link up with them to be a part of helping to not only change the trajectory of their lives and the lives of their families but of our communities as a whole. I see it as a civic duty.”
Tulsa’s Greenwood District
Tulsa’s Black Wall Street was birthed when O.W. Gurley, a wealthy businessman from Arkansas, moved to Tulsa in 1906. Gurley opened a store on 40 acres of land he purchased and named the street on which it sat after a city in Mississippi called Greenwood. After adding a hotel and mason lodge, he sold land to other African Americans who also began creating various businesses and services.
The Small Business Administration’s District Director Janita Stewart says that small businesses and their growth are critical to Mississippi’s economy and sees Greenwood Plaza as a necessary component in helping to nurture and sustain local ventures. It is ideal for trade schools, supply stores, barber shops, beauty salons, insurance, real estate brokers, medical offices, lending institutions, caterers, florists, and events or corporate meetings. She comments, “Having a resource to help someone start a business or grow an existing one situated under the same roof is a great asset. Small businesses and entrepreneurs need various resources to do what they do best, which is to create, make, sell something, or provide a viable service.”
In spite of the pandemic, there has been a net growth in small businesses over the course of the past couple of years. In accordance with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, Mississippi small businesses saw a slight increase from 262,272 to 264,858 with some of these new starts created out of necessity.
“When small businesses succeed, so does the economy,” she adds.
Successful entrepreneur Dee Brown believes such services are critically important to the success of small businesses. Dee is the Founder and CEO of The P3 Group, Inc., the nation’s largest African American-owned, public-private partnership real estate development firm with several offices spread throughout the country, including Jackson, MS. He is also a member of the FORBES Real Estate Council and has been a mentor and associate of Tony for more than a decade. He comments, “Training is important because inadequate management is one of the leading causes of small business failure. Most small business owners fail because they lack access to capital, have poor management, or fall victim to poor planning and execution.”
Sealing the Deal
Tony admits that negotiating the deal had its challenges. When he first saw the sprawling property three years ago, he had a “gut feeling” to buy it even though it wasn’t for sale. Being drawn to the property, he would drive by to view it thinking of how he could use it. When realtors London & Stetleman did post a for sale sign, Tony came in with an offer below their asking price. When both parties agreed upon the sale price that’s when Tony began running into roadblocks. Several banks turned down his loan request stating concern about equity sufficiency, timing, or responding they weren’t financing “the type” of loan he needed. But he pressed on.
“I had a strong feeling that just wouldn’t go away,” recalls Tony. “I continued talking and going back and forth negotiating with lenders to make it work.”
Past memories of painful business experiences also helped fuel Reimonenq’s drive in moving forward. They were experiences he wants to prevent others from having.
When asked to name a bad experience, he said, “being priced out of prime locations”.
After some months, surprisingly he struck a creative financing deal that offered him an even better rate and terms than the banks. Even still, he proceeded with caution, being careful to weigh every word in the fine print.
“Several times it looked like it wasn’t going to happen, and other times it looked like we were off to the races,” says Tony.
Closer to the end of the process, Tony became aware of a binding clause in the contract that could have proven fatal to his enterprise had he rushed to sign. Although the clause was legal and common practice, he wasn’t knowledgeable of the practice and its consequences. So, he was ready to call off the deal.
“There were some practices that I personally had never faced before until this point,” he says. “You can’t assume everything is straightforward. Even with good credit, a good down payment, and business history, you can still face roadblocks.”
Once Tony stated his final terms, the buyer agreed, and he had successfully expanded Reimonenq & Co., LLC into a more lucrative enterprise that could now help manifest his vision of empowering and equipping other minorities to dream and achieve.
Real estate broker, Bruna Bezerra of B & Co Realty, believes that the Plaza is just what is needed to promote business growth in the area.
Learn more about Tony Reimonenq’s nonprofit organization at LinkedupEmpowermentCenter.org
Also, be sure to follow him on Instagram at @ReimonenqJr.Tony
For press inquiries, contact Iris Raeshaun at (832) 880-8287 or [email protected]