9TH AVENUE PLAZA: African-American entrepreneurs pursue their dreams in business activities – Port Arthur News

You can find just about everything at 9th Avenue Plaza.

At the four-store mall near the site of the former St. Mary’s Hospital, you can get designer clothes without leaving the premises, personalized gifts and supplies to make them, the barbershop kind. that makes lifelong customers, a tax preparer and the soul food southerners crave.

Not to mention it’s filled with nice people, great conversations, and dreams of local entrepreneurs.

“This is the first African American center in Port Arthur, and we’ve all been in business for a year now,” said Toryn Foreman, 43. “And it’s like a historic moment.”

Foreman and business partner Jim Bailey, 43, opened L and F Clothing and Retail on July 18, 2020. It was quite a change from refineries, where the two worked together for almost 20 years after hiring for the first time with Brock Group.

While working in the industry, Bailey sold designer clothes in the trunk of his car. But it was when rapper and entrepreneur Master P spoke about taking the amount of money spent on other people’s creations and investing it in yourself that he rethought his track.

He designed his own shoe which he called Lean-O Brand – “Lean” after his wife’s nickname for him. But a friend suggested that he change it to a name more suited to the market.

And that’s how Leneaux was born.

Bailey asked Foreman to open a retail store.

“We were going to open on 25th Street, but it was a bit small,” Foreman said. “We found this building here, and it was the perfect location.”

Despite opening during a pandemic, the duo said business was excellent.

“Even though we had to shut down for a month, it’s like we haven’t missed it,” Foreman said.

Along with Leneaux, the store offers a wide range of clothing and accessories from brands such as Nike, Jordan, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and more.

“We wear everything,” Foreman said.

But it didn’t stop there. Foreman contacted a longtime family friend, Keesha Jones, who had her own business to prepare taxes. But the Lincoln High School graduate could do more than just calculate numbers.

In September, KeKe’s Chicken and Soul Food opened in the plaza. And with that, chili, okra, crawfish stew, fish, pepper steak, cheeseburgers, chicken and pork chop sandwiches, chicken and waffles, wings and fried rice. covered with shrimp.

“It was a vision I had,” Jones said. “As I grew up I became very business-oriented and saw myself in the future doing things.”

She spoke to her four children, who assured her that they could open a restaurant.

That’s when Foreman called for the Plaza.

“He said, ‘I know you love to cook and I know you’re a businessman. Is this something that interests you? “

She had just moved and was not sure if she could start a new business.

“I just came over to check it out and I was like, ‘I know we can do this. I know we can fight our way.

In addition to serving his favorite lunch and dinner dishes for over six months, Jones is also celebrating a successful tax season.

“You never know what you can do until you do it,” she said. “If you really focus and give it your all, you can’t help but thrive. If you keep doing this, something great is going to happen.

This is almost exactly how Erica Thibo got to open Prestige Custom Designs in the Plaza. She and the owner of Royalty Fresh Barbershop signed into the building around the same time. And after doing some work at the store, it opened last July.

She made vinyl t-shirts, mugs, mugs and other items around the house.

“It was just like a hobby,” she said of the job she started in 2019. “I got too big for my toilet.”

The store is full of custom designs on shirts, tumblers, mugs and other accessories. But she also does custom orders for people, such as bulk orders of graduation shirts.

And for those looking to start like Thibo, she sells vinyl, shirts, and other necessary items.

“Business has been surprisingly good,” she said. “I saw this section here for a while and it was about a couple of different things. By the way, it’s kind of like, “Oh, that’s a building. What do they have there now? So we’ve all been here for a year. The owner gives us a nice sign. The name of each company will appear on it.