TGR: Sweet Potato Kids, an MBE Certified Business, Survives and Thrives ... at Deer Park
Virgil and Michele Hall-Davis, sons have built family business on service, diligence, resourcefulness in the worst economy since 1929 and amidst the 7-year Walmart delay
By Doni M. Glover, www.bmorenews.com
(RANDALLSTOWN - July 13, 2012) - On paper, Liberty Road’s own Sweet Potato Kids is a Children’s Community Center which integrates focus on education, services, support and opportunities leading to improved learning, stronger families and healthier communities.
In person, it is all that and more. As soon as you hit the door at 9631 Liberty Rd # E Randallstown, MD 21133 (phone number 443.405.3408), one immediately gets a sense of activity, of education, of community, of a village atmosphere. In short, Sweet Potato Kids engages young people to have high expectations.
Their aim is to be the center of the community as it relates to children’s activities. And if you know anything about Northwest Baltimore County – marked by the Liberty Road corridor – home to many of the most affluent African Americans in the Greater Baltimore Metroplitan area, then you know that Sweet Potato Kids is a welcome addition.
Young people truly need resources in Northwest Baltimore County – as the onus is really on the parents to provide wholesome activities for young people. Sweet Potato Kids seeks to address the needs of the whole child (gross motor, social, emotional and educationally). Further, the mission is to act as a community hub by providing opportunities for family involvement, tapping into the community as a resource for learning, and serving as a center for community problem solving.
Imaginative Play Exhibits for Kids 2 –12…
Each themed interiorscape is designed to stimulate learning through auditory, visual, imaginative and computerized play:
Dinosaur Dig Adventure
Giant Chess Set
Paiges Place (for Pre-K 2 & 3 year olds)
According to the community, Sweet Potato Kids lives up to its reputation. According to Dave Green of the Planning Department for Baltimore County, “It’s community–oriented.” He added, “They identified a niche in the community and they worked it in a respectful way providing reasonable and wholesome activities for the entire family centered around the child.”
He said that the Davises are “very business-oriented, and always looking for ways to grow their business. They actively reach out to the community and to local resources so as to improve their center. Randallstown should be proud to have entrepreneurs of their caliber in the community. It’s the type of place that is family-oriented. And they cater to today’s kids in a unique way where they were focused on health long before the efforts by First Lady Michelle Obama. Even more, on any given day, you can see various races and cultures represented.”
Sweet Potato Kids was originally located at Brenbrook and Liberty in Brenbrook – the location of the new Walmart set to open before the holidays. However, there was a huge delay because the plaza was found to have contaminated soil. According to Kenny Brown, businessman and politico who lives in the area, a complicated issue arose as to who would clean up the soil and ultimately, who would own the land.
This has been at least seven years in the making. In the process, Sweet Potato Kids decided to move up Liberty Road to Deer Park. And by all indications, they are doing well – even in a challenged economy.
Part of the thanks is to viable strategic partnerships with entities like the American Heart Association and the University of Maryland Extension Program.
Brown said, “Sweet Potato Kids has had to survive in a very hostile environment” – alluding to their decision to move from Brenbrook Plaza during the process. Brown said that they would have had to keep their doors open at Brenbrook for two years with all kinds of challenges and uncertainty in their midst.” Brown said that as plans were being made for Walmart, many of the smaller stores in the plaza closed or moved. He said that prior to news of Walmarts opening this year, there has been years of frustration in the community for something they thought they were getting years ago.
“It would have been difficult for anybody to stay there,” said Brown. He added, “It’s a real testament for your business where people are coming to Deer Park – not as visible as Brenbrook Plaza – to seek out your services. This suggests a great product and great service.”
Virgil and Michele Hall-Davis are about their business, folks. For me, it’s especially beautiful to see a family-owned business – as I grew up in one, myself. It’s not for everybody – yet for some of us, it’s all we know – where everybody has a day-job in the family business – everybody plays a part – everybody does something for the better good of the whole so as to not be solely focused on self.
In speaking with them, Michele talked about that: looking beyond one’s own self, and being of service to others. And while it sounds simple, I honestly believe that it is a personal choice – a choice that many people do not make.
To run a family business requires patience, sacrifice, planning, teamwork, love, and understanding. And for a black family, I personally think the challenges are multiplied – compared to our white counterparts. Be that as it may, one glance at their operation – and then with some feedback from those who know – and I was quite assured that Sweet Potato Kids has built an institution for Northwest Baltimore County focused on the most important person in the world: the child.
Virgil and Michele – along with their prospering sons – have given of their heart and souls to the community, and it is truly our pleasure to feature them here. They are well-deserving of great honor, indeed.
“They’s good people,” said 10th District Delegate Adrienne Jones – Speaker Pro Tem for the Maryland House of Delegates. “From the very beginning …. A lot of people have visions, but few can make their visions into reality. Sometimes you get some obstacles that get in the way. And that’s when you call your elected officials.”
The Davises said that Jones and others were extremely helpful in their move to Deer Park. Jones assisted with the relocation.
“And, they follow through,” she added – something critical for new small businesses and something many fail to do.
Noting that Brenbrook Plaza has “gone through 7 years of waiting on Walmart,” Jones said that some businesses had to close as a result. “Despite lots of challenges, Sweet Potato Kids persevered. They host events. I did a fundraiser there one year. They have a gym. They have classrooms and a multi-purpose room. It’s an alternative setting for children in the area that is physically and mentally enriching and it provides the opportunity to empower the mind.”