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Supporting Black Businesses: A Candid Chat with Wine Styles' Ron Frieson

The closing of Wine Styles is a big blow to Cascade Heights and evidence, again, that African-Americans do not invest in their own community. Frieson is trying; What about the rest of us?

Former BellSouth Georgia President Ron Frieson has invested time, money and sweat equity into our community.

But, like so many before him, he is closing one of his businesses—Wine Styles on Cascade—on Dec. 31st because so few people supported his enterprise.

You all know the spiel by now: Go to another other neighbhorhood—white, Asian, Latino, East Indian—and you see thriving businesses owned by people who live there. Drive through the business districts of most African-American neighborhoods and you see boarded up storefronts, vacant lots, blight.

Why?

Cascade Patch put Frieson on the spot and asked him to share his view.

Watch the video clip here and, if you care about this issue, tell us why—in 2011—we spend so much money in other communities but do not back our own, even when they are well—stocked and well-managed.

Frieson has tried and is still trying, with Landon's Restaurant and Bar. But he cannot do it alone.

Tell us what you think about this serious black business issue in comments.

Janita Poe December 19, 2011 at 01:10 PM
What are some of the benefits of supporting black-owned businesses in black neighborhoods?
FLOYD HALL December 19, 2011 at 02:52 PM
To blame the failings of one, or even a few, particular establishments on African Americans not supporting it is painting with a fairly "broad brush", especially when hundreds of thousands of businesses fail every year in communities of all cultural identities. I’ve never heard of that particular Wine Styles until now, and I’m from the SW Atlanta community and still frequent the area routinely now that I'm back in Atlanta. Additionally, I find that many small businesses aren’t willing to invest in effective marketing (people or services) to reach out to their target customers. Since graduating from business school I've provided media and strategy consulting for small businesses, and one of the most prevalent issues is that owners don’t allocate properly for marketing expenses, even in the social media space. (Just because you have a Facebook/Twitter account doesn’t mean you’re running an effective campaign.) While I agree that supporting your neighborhood businesses is important for the reasons Ron mentioned, figuring that people will do so strictly because of those reasons isn’t always enough. I hate to see Wine Styles close down, but I just caution you (and Ron) on characterizing the surrounding neighborhood as being unsupportive, when the establishment itself (possibly) could have tried other ways to engage the community. It’s a two way street.
Harold Michael Harvey December 19, 2011 at 03:03 PM
Janita, you post an interesting question. I would say that the primary benefit of supporting black-owned businesses in black neighborhoods is the investment in the people of that neighborhood. The income made by the employees tend to stay in the community in the form of purchases at other neighborhood establishments and some of that money find its way into the neighborhood churches who do so much to keep our communities relevant. I am a patron of Wine Styles. I always enjoyed my visit with them. I will miss their absence in the neighborhood. Wine Styles gave Cascade Heights a sense of class and a world class venue to host an intimate party of friends. We cannot afford to lose London's. Twenty-one years ago I was a member of the neighborhood group that participated in the development of the I-285 business corridor. One thing that people harped on back then was "we needed a sit down, white table cloth restaurant." At the time we were attracting and fending off every fast food establishment imaginable. Now that we have lost Wine Styles, what are we going to do? Now that we have London's, Cascade Height, what are we going to do? If they are in the neighborhood, investigate, go in if for nothing more than to get a menu and see what they have to offer.
M Jackson December 19, 2011 at 03:12 PM
I never went into WineStyles though I often said I would. I love Landons but didn't know the two were connected in any way. That may have made me venture in had I known that. Honestly, I think I thought I would be embarrassed in a "wine store" because I don't know what to ask for. I have been to a wine tasting hosted by Winestyles (not in the store) and loved it! But unfortunately that didn't translate into me going inside. I just buy my wine at the grocery store. LOL Which I know is doing myself a disservice because I could be getting better quality for maybe a similar price. I guess I'm just not that interested in the product, which may be what "our" community thought as a whole. It may have nothing to do with who owns it. Especially since the same owner is operating a successful venture right next door.
Chris Harper December 19, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Great points Floyd. It is very important that businesses have marketing budgets allocated ahead of time and actively seek ways to reach potential customers. It's fairly standard to allocate 10-20% of projected gross revenues for marketing and communications. The Cascade Patch is a great way to reach local consumers affordably through advertising.
Janita Poe December 19, 2011 at 07:13 PM
Good points, everyone. To Floyd, I will just say that Ron and others don't have to invest tens of thousands in this area. As former president of BellSouth Georgia, he could have opened his WineStyles in Buckhead or Midtown and, in my opinion, made a nice profit there. Anyone who knows WineStyles knows that the place was top-of-the-line and that the managers heavily marketed events every week there. Sorry but I know tons of black Atlantans (myself included!) who drive to other areas all the time and drop nice money at a restaurant or bar table without ANY marketing of something happening. We just go there. Why did we not just go here?
Harold Michael Harvey December 19, 2011 at 07:53 PM
Again, Janita, another good questions. When it comes to our own, we are quick to take the position (a) some one else in the community will support it and (b) I will get around to stopping in there some day. Wow, embarrassed to ask? I go up to the Home Depot all the time and ask questions about how to do this or do that. I believe that is why the sales personnel is there to help me make decisions about things I am not sure how they work. I am a local publisher and author. People pass by my online store everyday and make the same calculus: I'll buy his book later, without realizing as a independent business person, I need to make sales daily from the people my advertisement is visibly exposed to on a daily basis. We can't wait for someday or for some other person to make the buy. Like Wine Styles we have to depend upon the person who drives by the store for five years without going in or the person who will drive by and be too embarrass to stop and read the reviews. Yet we are quick to suggest the brother went into the business under funded and did not properly market his product. Anyone who reads my facebook blog knows I am constantly providing information about reviews of my novel Paper Puzzle. If 20% of my facebook audience who have expressed they are going to buy my book, would pull the trigger today, the sequel to it will be out in 80 days. Yet I have to spend far too much time marketing to an audience who thanks that a black fiction writer is not a real writer.
Athon Barron December 19, 2011 at 11:27 PM
Black people dont understand business as individual business owners and potential custormers. Plenty of businesses are doing well in our community; publix, kroger, shell oil, bp pretroleum and others however the small African American businesses for the most part are suffering. As customers if we go into a business and watch who are the custormers: How many jews or caucasians do you see buying in our community? There is an unwritten law in the Asian, Korean, East India, etc to support one another. I stop by Life Essential Health food store that is the best herbal and natural food medicine, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable store in Atlanta at 2329 Cascade road. I stop by there and purchase something at least 2 a week instead of stoping by other junk food places. We are providing jobs and resources in our community when we buy from our own. Wake up Black People? We bankrupting and destroying our community.
Shirley Simmons December 20, 2011 at 03:29 PM
I have supported WineStyles and Landon's and hate to see WineStyles go! Due to the economy,I have not been purchasing much wine lately.Last Holiday season when I had the responsibilty of planning a group event for my church,Landon's was my first choice because we wanted to support a black owned establishment. I will continue to support Landon's and encourage my real estate clients to do so.
Wanda Holliday December 20, 2011 at 07:02 PM
Hi Ron! You are absolutely correct. If we(the largest group of consumers) would be as kind to our neighborhood businesses, as we are to others, it will make a difference. I plan to do better, because I am a guilty participant, and we must lead by example.
Lori Gaston December 21, 2011 at 02:01 AM
I believe if our communities were more like our northern cities, like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles where you have an influx of mass cultures and independant businesses, we would be more appreciative of the art galleries, frame shops, classy resturants and entertainment venues that open up in our communities. It always amazes me how we will welcome such establishments, like Applebees, Home Depot, Publix all these establishments that are honestly owned by corporations headed up by whites. But, we will not support like businesses owned by us that offer some of the same products. For this reason is why as a Native Atlantian has not returned to Atlanta to pursue my career as a Fine Artist. We just do not support each other. Especially, if it is not something out of the ordinary like a hair salon or food shack. Just shameful!!!!
Lori Gaston December 21, 2011 at 02:25 AM
I totally agree with you. As much as I love my people, we will not support each other. I hate to say it but, I will focusing my efforts towards the white market from now own. (LOL)
Glen McDaniel December 21, 2011 at 02:35 AM
Interesting interview, Janita. Thanks for following up fo Patch. Like others, I was curious to hear Mr Frieson's reasons for closing Wine Styles. I patronized the business and although I was not a wine club member I did attend monthly events there. I also acquired a few nice bottles of wine there as well. I love the idea of having classy, upscale businesses in our neighborhood. It's convenient (why spend time, effort and gas driving to Buckhead when I have the same offering in my neighborhood?). Businesses such as Wine Styles also add cache and value to a neighborhood. Everyone who lives in the community shares in the benefits. I would remind black business owners that it takes more than being "one of us" to earn someone's business and loyalty. Inept, sullen service, lack of customer appreciation,and inferior quality do not deserve loyalty. Luckily Wine Styles was not one such business, but in my time in Atlanta, I have encountered many black businesses offering lousy, lousy products or services. Those do not deserve any one's patronage. I am just happy Frieson will continue to invest in the community and wont pull out altogether.
Magaline Harvey January 04, 2012 at 07:00 AM
I don't drink Wine and due to "The Patch" really finding out what's in my backyard. I've not heard of "Landon's" either. I know Ron from being a former employee of his at Bell South. I believe that the businesses that are in this neighborhood need to meet the needs of the people that are here. I'm sure Wine Styles was classy and have not doubt about it but probably would have been better in an area that would patronize it more often such as happy hours after work or cocktails in busy business districts. I don't believe that the Cascade area is one of those busy business districts.

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