The Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce (BCBCC) offers education, products and services for disadvantaged business enterprises and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.
Story by Cindy Reid photos by Bob Sofaly (Courtesy of BCBCC)
The U.S. Black Chambers, Inc named the BCBCC the 2018 Chamber of the Year and it’s easy to see why our local Black Chamber was so honored. Among their many community development undertakings, the BCBCC has embarked on a highly anticipated new venture- the BCBCC Multiplex.
Beaufort Lifestyle caught up with BCBCC President and CEO Larry Holman to learn about the new Multiplex and other current and future projects.
What’s new with the Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce (BCBCC)?
What’s new is of course our new building, the BCBCC Multiplex, an Education, Business and Entertainment Support Center, which is located at 711 Bladen Street, Beaufort. We had the grand opening and ribbon cutting on August 24, 2018, and our target date for opening the building for business is October first.
The Multiplex is a completely renovated 15,000 square foot building consisting of three floors, which the BCBCC will use for many community and business purposes. Let me tell ‘give you the tour’!
The First floor will consist of an art gallery on one side and a restaurant on the other. Our art gallery will feature artists of this area and also travelling exhibits of special interest to the community. The restaurant will feature soul food and will host jazz music on the weekends. We are planning on having the restaurant open at the end of October, beginning of November. We have a firm commitment from a local restaurateur, so stay tuned for more details!
The second floor has a commercial kitchen which will be used for a variety of purposes. It can be used as a caterer’s kitchen for events taking place in the building, and we plan on using it for culinary classes. The second floor also has conference and training rooms, with a capacity of 150 people. The BCBCC offices will also be on the second floor. We definitely need the space as we have outgrown our current building, where we’ve been since 2006. and we will utilize six offices.
The third floor will be used to incubate small business startups, and will also provide office space on a rental basis. It is ideal for those that are just starting and for those that are ready for their first office. Also cubicles for those that need working space but don’t need a full office, for the social media types and for people that don’t necessarily want to work from their home. It can also be used by people who aren’t necessarily residents, but need office space while they are in town. These spaces can be rented by the hour, by the day and by the month.
The office spaces all have windows and it is a very professional setting, complete with a lobby, space for a receptionist and a conference room. Every space is outfitted with Wi-Fi.
Tell us about the journey to completion.
Creating multi use environments has always been our goal. The idea to have a building came about in 2014 and so we purchased the building at the county tax sale, as it was about to be foreclosed on. However there was a lien on the building that needed to be dealt with and we were able to pay that off in two years with a loan from the USDA.
Two years ago the building was almost completely renovated and in November 2016 there was a fire that destroyed the upper floors. The blaze was ruled accidental after a team of federal investigators worked with local fire officials to determine the cause. The good news was that we had insurance, which covered the loss, and while the insurance was being processed we cleaned up the site so we could start rebuilding right away. We started the rebuild last September.
What is unique about the space?
LH: There are two balconies, which can be used for all sorts of events. For instance you could have a wedding that flowed out to them, or a corporate event that flowed from the second to the third floor. You could set up tables, booths to showcase business; all of it can be used for just about anything. You can bring your own chef and have food prepared in our commercial kitchen to be served at your event. The way it flows is really neat!
The Multiplex will truly fill a need, in fact we already a commitment for six of our offices. Once we get going the building will pay for itself and be an asset for the community. In addition the BCBCC will be hosting webinars with other chambers around the country, monthly and quarterly, to showcase what we’ve done and share ideas with other chambers on a national level.
Who can use the space?
LH: The buildings rental spaces, such as the office spaces, event spaces, conference and training rooms etc, are available to anyone, regardless if they are a BCBCC member or not. What we going to is a membership price and a non-membership price. (Membership is offered on an annual basis.) Regarding our prices, we will be competitive with the other venues in the area.
What is your favorite area in the building?
LH: I love the second floor but the restaurant really is a favorite space for me. Sitting in that room and looking out the windows, it’s relaxing. The windows are beautiful; it is such a nice environment and ambiance. And that’s with just tables and chairs! Wait till we put in the restaurant tables and dress it up. There has been a lot of talk and support for the restaurant, and looking at the neighborhood, it fits right in. We also bought the two properties behind the building to be used for parking space and we will offer valet parking.
How will the Multiplex benefit young people?
LH: We will offer a variety of programs to keep neighborhood kids really active and off the streets. One of the large rooms, 200 square feet, will be used for filming, mixing and coding classes. We will be using our commercial kitchen for classes on culinary arts and we will also be offering piano lessons.
What would you like our readers to know about the BCBCC?
LH: I really want people to know that we are a CDFI, which is Community Development Financial Institution and we are looking into affordable housing and will be applying for funding with the goal of getting it stated within the next two years. This is not just talk, gentrification is happening but it needs to take place slowly and not push everyone out.
We also have a state contract for home improvements for seniors, which means we are able to provide concrete help for senior homeowners, such as a new roof, air conditioning, ramps for access, and other basic necessities.
People may also be surprised to know that we have been making micro loans, up to $100,000, since 2012 via the USDA, SBA, and CDFI. We have made a total of 1.3 million in micro loans. We help our community and we are involved with our community.
How many people work at the BCBCC?
LH: We have four staff members and other ancillary staff such as marketing person and an admissions coordinator. We have approximately 135 members, individuals and businesses. We have support from the community in many ways and I want to mention the Bank of Ozark, who got us equipment, such as professional desks for the new building and donated $ 25,000.
How long have you been involved with the BCBCC?
LH: I have been involved with the BCBCC since its inception in 1999, first as Treasurer, and then I was elected President and CEO in 2001. I had taken early retirement from J.C.Penney and I’ve been President and CEO since then. I learned a lot at J.C.Penney, I was Store Manager at Cross Creek location from 1996 to 2001. I love what we do here, there is nothing like giving back.
When we arrived in Beaufort I felt like I was coming home even though I had never been here before. We, my wife Wilma and our four children, had spent our lives in the Winston-Salem and Durham, North Carolina area. We love Beaufort, and every year for the past three years we have gathered our children and with my sister’s family we rent houses at Fripp Island for a week and have a blast!
Your favorite place in Beaufort?
My porch overlooking the marsh with a cold beverage in hand! I just recently started drumming the last two months, so I go out there and beat my drums. The neighbors haven’t complained –yet! My other passion is visiting other countries. Recently Wilma and I went to Cuba. It was our second trip there, and we love the people, the neighborhoods and the classic cars. I don’t know where we are going next, I’m sure we are going somewhere- my wife will tell me!
For further information:
The Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce
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