Black-Owned Shop brings craft wine and beer to Southeast Baltimore
“Baltimore City is home, and the lack of minority business ties directly to the ingrained bias in the commercial banking world.”
Jeryl and Tyrekia Cole from From the Rox Wine & Beer Shop in the Highlandtown area of Baltimore, Maryland, have been on a community-focused mission to make quality wine and craft brews more accessible since opening their store in 2018. However, the couple’s entrepreneurial roots go back much further.
“I think what motivates me is entrepreneurial freedom,” says Jeryl, who founded the Tyrekia business when he was just 28 years old. “It started with my grandmother, and her entrepreneurial spirit touched my whole family.” His grandmother’s businesses ranged from convenience stores and bars to an arcade. “She even had her own board game and wrote a book,” says Jeryl. “I spoke to her this morning and she said, ‘What do you think about opening an art gallery for children?'”
Off the Rox is known in honor of his family name – Rox – which is well known in the southeast Baltimore community where they both grew up and opened their new business. They also strive to offer locally made wines and beers in small batches. A unique selection appears on their list of nearly 300 wines – including “unicorn” offerings, such as blends that pair well with barbecue for warmer weather or a smoked lager for the transition to fall.
Jeryl was confident his concept would work, but found that big banks would not take chances with him. Then he turned to community funding. Supported by Baltimore Business Lending (a subsidiary of Baltimore Community Lending) they launched the business in a new six-story mixed-use residential/commercial building replacing a long-vacant building.
“Most of the big banks wanted us to be in business for at least three years before lending,” he says. “I knew if someone was willing to understand my business model and my plan, they would believe in lending me and it wouldn’t be a high risk. I aim to pay off my loan well ahead of schedule to show I’m serious about my business.
As the company grows, Jeryl says hiring employees and offering health insurance is one of his greatest accomplishments because he sees firsthand how important opportunities are to communities’ health. Instead of squeezing diversity out of neighborhoods with strict funding and valuation models, more credit opportunities for people like him who are drawn from the community are imperative.
“Baltimore City is home, and the lack of minority business ties directly to the ingrained bias in the commercial banking world,” he says. “We of all people as a community have to think outside the box and away from classic lending. More resources and more awareness are needed. Small businesses are the backbone of America. We need to make it more accessible to find funding.”
Jeryl says change requires a more collaborative mindset shift. He sees the ideal pairing in leaders and entrepreneurs from different industries.
“There needs to be an open dialogue with all people to boost business and development in inner-city communities,” he says. “Economic advancement only works if all sides are on the same line.”
Bonnie Crockett, director of small business lending at Baltimore Community Lending, says Off the Rox was their very first small business client and exemplifies the type of businesses they seek to support.
“Baltimore Community Lending provides small business lending to startups and emerging small businesses in Baltimore City that have strong business plans and adequate credit, but cannot meet the collateral or other requirements of traditional lending,” she says.
Rather than requiring entrepreneurs to own a home or other assets to use as collateral, Baltimore Community Lending focuses on business education as a fairer way to mitigate risk and ensure long-term success. At least for Off the Rox, the approach worked.
“I hope this helps the next young adult with their plan to lock down funding,” says Jeryl.
This story is part of our CDFI Futures series, which examines the community development finance industry through the lenses of justice, public policy and inclusive community development. The series is generously supported by Partners for the Common Good. Subscribe to PCG’s CapNexus newsletter at capnexus.org.
Hadassah Patterson has been writing for news outlets for more than a decade, has contributed to local online news for seven years and has 15 years of commercial copywriting experience. She is currently involved in politics, economics, social justice, culture, food and wellness.