Durham’s ‘Black Wall Street’ continues to weather pandemic; optimistic about future

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Nearly 20 years ago when Sherry Mims and Tianitia Davis opened their salon The Hair Estate on West Parrish Street in Durham, they didn’t fully know the history there. 

“Because when we initially moved here. It was a ghost town,” Mims said. 

“As we were here, we watched the whole area grow. With it growing they brought back in the history. So, to watch it expand from there, then it brought the pride back,” she explained. 

In the early 1900s, Durham gained a national reputation for its thriving business community — businesses owned by African Americans, which lined Parrish Street. 

It received the nickname “Black Wall Street.” 

“Our financial institutions were on Parrish Street in downtown Durham. But the capital that capitalized the banks and North Carolina Mutual and other financial institutions came from Black businesses which were predominantly located on Fayetteville Street and Pettigrew Street and some extent Pine Street, which is now called South Roxboro Street,” explained Denise Hester. 

Hester is describing what is known as the Hayti community. 

It’s where her and her husband Larry grew up and also where for years ran two shopping centers in the Fayetteville Street corridor. 

The couple founded M&M Real Estate Development and Consulting. 

“If we had not seen what have been, we may not have imagined what could be,” mentioned larry. 

Nowever, what no one could’ve imagined is the impact COVID-19 has had. 

“We were fortunate that most of our businesses were considered essential. To some extent everyone was hit pretty hard in phase one. Things started opening up in phase two and phase three. I think we’ve lost one business,” Denise said. 

So far, Mims and Davis have been able to weather the tough times. 

They said some businesses have had to close. 

“It has definitely been a struggle,” mentioned Davis. 

While they say things are at a standstill, what was once Black Wall Street for them is now coming full circle. 

“There is a Black dance studio two doors from here. The dentist office across the street is Black owned. The building that’s two doors from us is owned by two young Black women,” Mims explained. 

The Hester’s children have also become business owners.  One runs a barbershop while their daughter runs a restaurant and another son is set to open an engraving business. 

“We will continue to advocate and encourage that there be equitable treatment for Black businesses and Black residents of Durham,” said Hester. 

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