A group of investors has restored a historic building at the corner of Akard and Griffin to its former glory in one of Dallas’ oldest neighborhoods—and several Black-owned businesses are hoping to make their own history there in a new century.
In 1923, the building was home to the Newland Hotel and a Piggly Wiggly grocery story in The Cedars neighborhood. Now the building is known as Cedars Corner—and its owners have been able to retain the century-old building’s charm while creating an inviting mixed-use space.
The Cedars, a neighborhood directly south of downtown Dallas, has grown into a community known best for its artistic and inventive culture. Most recently it’s been revitalized through an influx of independent business owners bringing art galleries, one-of-a-kind restaurants, and live entertainment venues. And now its owners believe Cedars Corner is a key component in that revitalization.
Black-owned businesses find a home with a touch of past and future
The onetime hotel retains the venue’s classic sign but now is home to 14 private apartments. Its first floor, once home to the Piggly Wiggly, now serves as an incubator of sorts for a distinctive collection of Black and women-owned businesses committed to bringing life back to the historic space.
Those businesses include:
Koffee Day Spa
When Koffee Day Spa founder Thai Morrison started her business, there were very few Black-owned spas in the area for her to learn from.
Now, the celebrity aesthetician has her own line of skincare products and has been featured in Essence Magazine, Brides, PureWow and more.
Koffee Day Spa offers a wide array of facials as well as scrubs, wraps, and waxing.
Val’s Kitchen & Pantry
Every dessert Val Jean-Bart makes is a loving tribute to the mother he lost to breast cancer.
For the four years his mother fought the disease, Jean-Bart and his mother made a new cheesecake every Sunday, and those emotional sessions eventually became Val’s Cheesecakes. He said his new Cedars location, Val’s Kitchen & Pantry, not only is a venue for delicious cheesecakes, but it will be an incubator kitchen where Jean-Bart and others will nurture creators hoping to get into a food business.
He said the spacious kitchen is perfect for workshops, cooking classes, and more.
Lacy’s Break the Moldz
Entrepreneur Michele Lacy chose the past year to pivot into pursuing her passion for arts and crafts.
Lacy’s Break the Moldz teaches that anyone can be a creator.
Lacy’s guided workshops, classes, and projects include resin art, soap and candlemaking and even painting.
Distinctive Vines Wine Lounge
Four entrepreneurs are behind Distinctive Vines Wine Lounge, the first Black-owned wine bar in North Texas. Its intimate lounge features a curated selection of wines and small plates and features live entertainment on select evenings, special events and more.
Vanity Life Studio
Celebrity makeup artist Destiny McGill has created Vanity Life Studio as one of the region’s top destination for eyelash extensions.
McGill is widely quoted as a beauty expert in SheFinds and other outlets.
Vanity Life Studio is expected to open later this spring.
JSK Cedars Corner invests in ‘historic beauty’
The Cedars Corner building is owned by JSK Cedars Corner LP, a single asset entity owned by several private investors. Its general partners are John Fainter, Stephen Schmidt, and Kacy Jones.
“From the moment we saw the building, we recognized both its historic beauty and the impact it could have on this community,” Fainter said in a statement. “As we’ve had the privilege to meet and work with the creative entrepreneurs who now make up the Cedars Corner community, we’ve begun to realize what a rare and special group of people now call this place home.”
To bring the building into the 21st century, HVAC units were added, replacing equipment that was decades old. Not only did the owners want to make the units more contemporary, they needed to make them more livable and wanted residents to appreciate the historic charm of the building, but feel like they were living in a clean, updated unit.
Keeping ‘the character and charm’ while making new connections
“We selected each of the businesses at Cedars Corner because they represented a vital and important part of the neighborhood we want to see The Cedars become,” Fainter said. “But more importantly, each of them was passionately committed to creating a community here where businesses and entrepreneurs support each other and revel in each other’s success.”
“We believe in the future of The Cedars,” Fainter said. “This neighborhood is an important piece of Dallas history, and there are really exciting things happening there. While you’ve seen some investment south of downtown Dallas for years, it’s just moved at a slower pace that other neighborhoods adjacent to the Central Business District (e.g. Uptown, Deep Ellum, Design District, West Dallas).”
Fainter said that in recent years, “we’ve seen the introduction of Gilley’s, Four Corner’s Brewery, and the Lorenzo and Canvas Hotel [in The Cedars]. But we think the new overhaul of the Dallas Convention Center and the rebirth of the Longhorn Ballroom are indicators of a bright future.”
He said that it’s important that people “repurpose these historic buildings as the neighborhood evolves in order to keep the character and charm to which we were attracted. The Cedars neighborhood is easily accessible to downtown and the regional transportation system, and hopefully new connections to downtown will provide that positive vibrancy that you see on the north side of downtown.”
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