A couple whose juice business grew out of an effort to treat their son’s rare genetic disorder. A mother jump-starting her vocation after the tragic loss of her son. A woman dedicated to helping female human trafficking victims rebuild their lives through job skills.
They are some of the entrepreneurs giving new life to the damaged remains of a riot-scarred building in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood — in the aptly titled Sherman Phoenix development.
Two years and $4 million in the making, Sherman Phoenix debuts Friday with a promise to generate jobs and showcase a vibrant spirit for a neighborhood recovering from the violent unrest of August 2016. Funding came from a wide range of investors — the City of Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Economic Development Commission and about 50 community members who put in between $1,000 and $10,000 for ownership stakes as part of a crowdfunding effort. Three angel investors, including Milwaukee Bucks Senior Vice President Alex Lasry, also participated.
“It’s really a model of social entrepreneurship,” said JoAnne Sabir, a co-founder of Sherman Phoenix. “We’re owners of the building, but all of this is about responding to our neighbors.”
Those neighbors were rocked by the unrest in Sherman Park that burst out of the police shooting of unarmed, 23-year-old Sylville Smith on Aug. 13, 2016.
Amid protests that turned violent, the BMO Harris Bank and five other businesses were set ablaze. After the humid summer night gave way to morning, an estimated $5.8 million in damage was left behind.
Sabir saw an opportunity to revamp the area and worked with developer Juli Kaufmann to make Sherman Phoenix a reality. Kaufman is fond of saying she’s not doing real estate, she’s building communities.
They began recruiting businesses to build a network of entrepreneurs who will support each other. The details aren’t set, but the plan is for business owners to share ideas and learn from each other. They chose the fire-damaged BMO Harris Bank at 3536 W. Fond du Lac Ave. as their location.
Now two years later, nearly 30 businesses will grace a spot once marked by violence. Here’s a look at some of the entrepreneurs setting up shop at Sherman Phoenix:
JoAnne and Maanaan Sabir’s son Taj was born with a rare genetic disorder. As they searched for an alternative to antibiotics, they came upon juicing.
Their son and others in the neighborhood responded well to the juices, and a quest to improve their son’s health evolved into a business.
That business, The Juice Kitchen, utilizes such ingredients as sweet potato, lime, beets and kale for its signature juices, such as “Soul Food,” “Purple Haze,” “Pro Teen” and “Real Bucks.”
Now, the business will expand into Shindig Coffee, a place where customers can sit down and enjoy everything from soups, salads and Mandingo wraps to, of course, coffee.
JoAnne Sabir, who has been working on the re-brand for the past year, said they are hoping to reach a larger audience with all the old products and several new ones.
“The Shindig offers a larger footprint,” she said. “It’s an expansion of the project.”
The Sabirs are operating with the mentorship of Paul Miller, the co-founder of Colectivo, and are excited about applying everything they learned since they opened the Juice Kitchen seven years ago.
2 King Barber Shop
When you come into 2 King Barber Shop, expect “to be treated like royalty,” co-owner Darrel Pate said.
When JoAnne Sabir approached Pate and his partner, A-Jamal Nuruddin, about adding a barbershop to the Sherman Phoenix, Pate was immediately interested.
Pate and Nurrudin have a history.
Before coming together for 2 King Barbershop, the friendly competitors hosted basketball tournaments representing their respective businesses: Nuruddin owned Top Class and Pate owned Hall of Fades.
Now, Pate said he wants to offer premium customer service and a more “quaint” environment, with different emphases, such as men’s skin care.
“I’m maturing so my mentality is changing,” he said. “I want to move a little slower.”
Pate, who recalled his parents going to the old BMO Harris Bank, is glad to see it rebuilt.
“Whenever you take a dilapidated building and reinvent it, that is always inspirational to everyone,” he said.
Pate said he loves the name, the concept and the learning opportunities presented by Sherman Phoenix.
“The more you’re around people that are ambitious, the more ambitious you become,” he said. “Being a big fish in a little pond is kind of boring. I want to be a small fish in a big pond; I will grow from that.”
Theresa Do My Nails
Theresa Langdon started doing nails 27 years ago to keep her 2-year-old son out of day care.
As he grew older, he didn’t sit in his mother’s shop on North 53rd and West Center streets as much, but he always told his female friends to visit Langdon for pampering.
Then in 2012, Langdon’s son, Tyrone Keith Brown Jr., was murdered in a double homicide at the age of 22.
Langdon stopped doing nails.
“I didn’t want to do nails anymore because it made me so angry,” she said.
Eventually, Langdon picked it up again to keep her son’s memory alive.
Langdon was honing her craft at Flawless Features on North 84th Street and West Capitol Drive when JoAnne Sabir noticed her work on the hands of a customer and extended an opportunity.
With the grand opening fast approaching, Langdon is nearly ready to provide Sherman Phoenix clients with her manicure and pedicure specialties, including sculpture nails, Swarovski stones, linework, rebalances and more.
Langdon, who was hesitant to sign on at first, said the name embodied her life story.
“Rising from the ashes? Yeah. When she was explaining it to me, it made me feel like I was handpicked by God,” she said.
Queens Closet started out as a small boutique at Grateful Girls Inc., Executive Director Chandra Cooper’s nonprofit organization.
The nonprofit offers mentoring, counseling volunteer services and more recently, opened a Safe Haven group home exclusively for female human trafficking victims.
“Our mission is to inspire, empower, and encourage women and girls,” Cooper said.
She added Queens Closet as a way to handle the influx of donated goods and give women and girls job experience and training to become more employable.
“A lot of the young women we worked with needed professionalism and job skills,” she said.
Cooper said the closet will feature stylish clothes and a relaxed atmosphere.
The idea is to use employment to empower women and girls as they recover from trauma. Cooper said she readily accepted JoAnne Sabir’s invitation because it opened another avenue toward that goal.
“It’s so new and innovative (and) our space is phenomenal,” she said. “It felt we could be a part of something bigger.”
Taj Pearsall’s Buffalo Boss chain serves a foodie’s guilty pleasure without the guilt: organic chicken wings without antibiotics or hormones.
Buffalo Boss started on the East Coast, but when Pearsall, the owner, moved to Milwaukee, he saw an opportunity to build something for his two children.
“(I’m) trying to establish some generational wealth for them,” he said.
Pearsall, who manages 40 people throughout his chains, used college connections to navigate the business world.
However, he said most Sherman Park residents don’t have such options.
“Frustration … stems from people in the neighborhood not having access to the resources out there or even knowing where to go or who to ask for help,” he said.
Raising funds, getting capital, handling health inspections and managing business licenses are only a few of the areas where Pearsall said fledgling businesses struggle.
However, he’s hoping Sherman Phoenix will represent a resource where those needs can easily be accomplished.
“I like the group effort mentality (where) we all chip in,” he said. “You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child? For everyone in that Sherman Phoenix, that business is their child.”
Lakeia Jones, founder of AMRI Counseling, began investing in the Sherman Park district when she purchased a home there seven years ago.
As vandals moved through the neighborhood after Smith’s shooting, she said she didn’t feel safe enough to leave her home that evening.
As a mental health professional since 2006, Jones said she saw connections between the unrest she experienced firsthand and the lack of mental health support services.
“The stigma still exists,” Jones said.
So when JoAnne Sabir reached out, Jones said she knew she couldn’t say no.
“Being inside the Sherman Phoenix will bring in a whole new crowd of people who never thought about mental health services,” Jones said.
Those services include in-home or clinic-based counseling, treatment, diagnostics, assessments and evaluations for children, adolescents, adults, couples and families.
Jones, who has three other AMRI Counseling locations in Wisconsin, said working in the Sherman Phoenix area will amplify the community’s and its residents’ rebirth.
“The vision of Sherman Phoenix is what really sold me,” she said. “I like how the community came together and kind of pulled everything from the ashes and are trying to rebuild from there.”
Sherman Phoenix moving forward
What’s next? JoAnne Sabir said that’s for the neighborhood to decide. But for now, she’s focused on using the Sherman Phoenix to continue galvanizing community spirit.
“It’s an ongoing balancing act between pressing against an oppressive (society) and finding joy in the gifts of our society,” Sabir said.
She pointed out that rebuilding Sherman Park’s identity will take time and continued effort. But Friday’s grand opening is a running start.
“To have this offering around the time when we consider what we should be thankful for? We count our blessings — it is in perfect alignment,” she said.
The businesses at Sherman Phoenix
• 2 King Barber Shop
• 9th Cloud Therapy
• AMRI Counseling
• Buffalo Boss
• Confectionately Yours
• Embody Yoga
• Funky Fresh Spring Rolls
• Gener8tor/Fellowship Art
• Hands At Home
• Hello Beautiful
• Honeybee and Sage Wellness
• Lush Popcorn
• Maximizing Potential
• Next Level Vegan
• None Above
• Prenasis Hair Gallery/Shampooed
• Purple Door Ice Cream
• Queens Closet
• Rhoyal Trinity Locs
• Sabir’s Karate and Fitness Center/Studio 1969
• Sauce & Spice
• Shindig Coffee
• Silver Talisman Local
• So Greedy
• The Lash Factory
• Theresa Do My Nails
• Vibez Creative Arts Space
• Vicki Design Studio
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