Mayor Jackson Announces Neighborhood Transformation Initiative Retail Incubator Finalists

As part of Mayor Frank G. Jackson’s $65 million Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI), seven local entrepreneurs will launch businesses in the Glenville neighborhood. The small businesses are part of the initiative’s retail incubator program and will be housed in Glenville Circle North, a new mixed-use development set to open in summer 2019.

“The NTI Retail Incubator program is a small part of an overall effort to rebuild a distressed neighborhood and rebuild the economy of that neighborhood,” said Mayor Frank G. Jackson. “It is designed to help create wealth by providing support to entrepreneurs who supply goods and services to the neighborhood.”

Introduced in May 2017, Mayor Jackson’s NTI involves dozens of private and philanthropic community partners, working to revitalize Cleveland’s neighborhoods and spur entrepreneurial growth. Assistance for neighborhood residents includes: new home construction on vacant land, down payment assistance for rehabilitated homes, senior home repair assistance and more. Glenville is the first of four neighborhoods slated for strategic reinvestment.


The City of Cleveland and the Cleveland Citywide Development Corporation have coordinated the initiative’s retail incubator program. The first retail incubator of the NTI is a 4,000-square-foot space located on the street-level of the Glenville Circle North development at 105th Street and Ashbury Avenue.

In a first-of-its-kind effort, 185 entrepreneurs applied to participate in the program. Finalists were selected through the course of interviews and public events. During a meet-and-greet event in January 2019, Eric Rogers’ Black Box Fix restaurant was chosen as the anchor tenant and will occupy 1,200 square feet of space. The remaining 2,800 square feet will be divided between six small businesses. These businesses were selected from a process narrowing down nearly 20 applicants to six, which were announced following the final pitch event on March 20. The process will repeat every two years to allow new tenants access to the space and resources to get their businesses off the ground.

The Operations Manager:

Cle Consulting Firms was selected as the Operations Manager of the NTI Retail Incubator.  LaRese Purnell of Cle Consulting Firms will work closely with the Incubator tenants to grow their business acumen, notably they will provide one-on-one support, organize group trainings, and create opportunities for collaboration between tenants. 


Black Box Fix – Eric Rogers:

During the Meet and Greet event in January, Chef Eric Rogers’ Black Box Fix was selected as the anchor tenant for the Inaugural NTI Retail Incubator. He opened the first Black Box Fix location in the Cedar-Lee district in 2015 and has since opened a few more restaurants, and landed a Food Network appearance.

Having grown up in the Glenville area, Eric always wanted to come back to his roots and thus jumped on the opportunity of opening at the Glenville Circle North location. Chef Rogers takes great pride in educating and training his staff to make sure that each of them is able to reach their full potential through their work at Black Box Fix.

From his first location in Cleveland Heights, to his current location in Legacy Village Black Box Fix has loyal following that will hopefully follow him to Glenville.


Pipe’ N Hot Grill – Angela Sharpley:

Angela Sharpley has made sure that she knows everything about the restaurant industry – she has graduated from Edwin’s Leadership and Restaurant Institute, worked with Chef Michael Symon’s COO Sam Lindsley who taught her restaurant operation skills, and is now ready to open her own location, where she will serve delicious and fresh seafood. Through this program she and her daughter, Stesia Swain, aim to help rebuild the neighborhood offering employment and mentorship to its residents as well as fundraising initiatives. Her business was previously located in Cleveland Heights.

Premier Barber Lounge – Antonio Stewart:

Antonio Stewart started cutting hair on the front porch of his Glenville home at the age of 14.  His “High-End” barbershop strives to offer his clients a “third place” – a place besides home and work that provides a platform for social interactions. The NTI Incubator will allow for an expansion of his current 10 chair barbershop, located in Cleveland Heights, to include this additional location to build his brand and help reshape the community. Antonio wants his shop to offer a comfortable setting for people to meet each other on a more relatable level. His services include: haircuts, hot-towel razor shaves, facials, skin care for men, manicures, pedicures and shampoos.

LaMocha Boutique – Esayla Williams:

Prior to owning LaMocha, Esayla was a flight attendant, where she learned the importance of customer relations and care. In 2016 she left her job and took a leap of faith to start her boutique. As a young African-American female entrepreneur she faced many challenges that she was not prepared for, and is hoping that the Retail Incubator Program will help her grow as a business owner. Esayla’s mission has always been to encourage people to love themselves, and she is able to channel that passion through the unique pieces that she offers through LaMocha.

Living Rich – Sharia Livingston and Sha’Miah Richardson (mother daughter team):

Living Rich is a unisex streetwear clothing brand for everyone. It offers quality clothes at affordable prices. Their products include a line of t-shirts, headwear, bottoms, footwear, outwear, and accessories. In addition to selling clothes, Sharia and Sha’Miah hope to hold monthly workshops to focus on everyday struggles and ways people can overcome them.  Together they hope that Living Rich will grow to become an example for other local entrepreneurs to realize that they also can be successful right here in Cleveland.

Cleveland Cold Brew – Karen Ross:

Cleveland Cold Brew is a small batch, cold brew coffee company that currently sells at farmer’s markets, festivals, and a few local businesses. At the Incubator, Karen hopes to operate a full service coffee shop selling drip coffee, espresso drinks, pastries, sandwiches, and salads. Before launching her brand, Karen worked for Starbucks leading coffee retailer to learn operations and industry best practices to ensure her business’ success.

Vitiman Kandie – Mary Johnson:

Mary Johnson wants to create healthy food options and teach residents about healthy lifestyle choices in the Glenville neighborhood. Having made the decision to live a healthier lifestyle, Mary lost weight, became a motivational speaker, and a personal trainer. Mary was the first African American female engineer at Cagrill Deicing Technology. She hopes to open Vitiman Kandie, a shop that will provide healthy meal plans, cold pressed juices, and vegan wraps and bowls.

The retailers who were not selected for the NTI Incubator will still receive economic assistance:

The City of Cleveland is committed to continue working with the three businesses that were not selected to join the retail incubator. All of the contestants are winners. During the opening comments for this event Mayor Jackson committed that the City and Cleveland Citywide Development Corporation (CCDC) will continue to work with these businesses to help them find a location to set up their business. All participants tonight received a 1-year membership with ECDI and the Women’s Business Center to provide business development assistance and $500 from the CCDC.

Good Enough 2 Eat – Tia Harmon:

Tia Harmon has been working in the restaurant business for over 20 years and is ready to strike out on her own. Tia has a Culinary Arts degree from Pennsylvania Culinary Institute. She hopes to open a permanent location and a food truck to serve her fresh soups, salads, and sandwiches to neighborhoods all around Cleveland.

Hair and The Blog – Rickea Hampton:

Rickea has over 10 years of experience working as a hair stylist. Having attended many hair shows and conventions, she decided to create her own platform where hair professionals are able to learn new techniques and be recognized for their accomplishments. Rickea has aspirations of operate her own loft-style salon that will host educational classes, provide venue rentals for industry related events, and industry networking opportunities.

Find photos of the event linked here. You can also link to the Facebook live video here.