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By BWSTimes Staff
On Halloween night in 2003, Dewey Morrow stepped out on faith, packed his truck and left his home in Nebraska for his longtime dream of opening a business in America’s Historical and famous Greenwood District, dubbed the Black Wall Street, located just north of the railroad tracks in downtown Tulsa, Okla.
Morrow saved up enough money to open D&F Mini-Mart at 104 N. Greenwood Ave., placing his stamp on African-American History: Ownership of a business in America’s original Black Wall Street District would be his dream come true.
What Morrow didn’t know was that he established his dream just before the neighborhood would undergo gentrification.
Many Black Business owners in the Greenwood District and proven their resilience through the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and through the harms of desegregation.
Morrow came to Greenwood for the heritage and the history, stating in a 2015 interview with the Tulsa World, “I wanted to be part of the rebirth.”
That dream will end on Sunday, April 30, 2017, because of unrealistic demands by the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.
D&F Mini-Mart will close its doors after serving Tulsa’s Black community for 14 years.
With only a month’s notice, the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce demanded an extra $479.93 monthly, starting May 1, 2017. Despite the increase in rent, store fixtures and utility services are in dire need of replacement and repair; there has never been running water in D&F Mini-Mart, and the blinds have never been replaced.
Dewey said the Chamber promised to replace the carpet in 2003 and that they would have plumbing repaired so the business could have running water. Neither occurred in the 14-years Morrow occupied the space, despite the Chamber’s continued demands of a rent increase.
When D&F first opened in 2003, Morrow’s rent was $400. Rent has steadily increased over the years, but increases jumped higher under the current Chamber.
Since opening, rent for the storefront rose 200% between 2003 and 2017. Starting next month, the Chamber is demanding Morrow pay $1,200 for rent on a very small space without running water.
The Chamber told Morrow that he would need to pay for the replacement of the light fixtures and other items on the property himself. The Chamber even encouraged Dewey to take out a loan and pay for renovations to their property.
In order to make renovation, he would not only need to get a loan, but he would also have to close his business, losing his income, while still expected to pay $1,200 monthly.
There was no discussion about equity for a Black business owner.
After D&F Mini-Mart closes, there will be no convenience stores on the historic Black Wall Street.
Morrow’s business has the only ATM in Greenwood, which is frequented by patrons of Blow Out Hair Studio and Tee’s BarberShop. Many Black beauty salons and barbershops use cash. Besides the Mini-Mart’s ATM, the next closest ATM is the corporately-controlled Arvest ATM at ONEOK Field, which seems to mirror the Chamber’s plans for Greenwood: Force black-owned businesses to close by, making it difficult for them to operate while supporting corporate interests and development.
The Greenwood Chamber’s decisions continue to adversely impact the Black-owned businesses.
D&F Mini-Mart has the only ATM on the Black Wall Street. -Darrell Mercer