Clyde Davis-El, owner of Main Street Hats
Clyde Davis-El, owner of Main Street Hats
Small Business
September 8, 2016

A tip of the hat to small business renovations

A hat store and two other small businesses get a fresh new look — thanks to collaboration between the National Urban League and Wells Fargo.

The hats were in boxes. The boxes were stacked on boxes. And it was a pretty big problem for Clyde Davis-El, owner of Main Street Hats in Baltimore.

So when he heard about a program from Wells Fargo and the National Urban League to award renovation grants to three Baltimore small businesses, Clyde jumped at the chance to apply.

From more than 50 essay submissions to the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business® Neighborhood Renovation Program earlier this year, Clyde’s Main Street Hats was selected to receive one of the three $10,000 cash prizes, along with design guidance from the architectural firm Gensler and renovation assistance from Rebuilding Together Baltimore.

After meeting with Clyde to discuss his goals for the renovation, design experts from Gensler came up with creative new methods to showcase and store his inventory.

“I had a limited display, and with the boxes that I had around, it was taking up space,” says Clyde. “The designer Wells Fargo provided came up with an excellent solution, using a suspended-looking display, plenty of light, and a lot of extra storage.

“People used to call this the ‘best kept secret,’” says Clyde of his hat shop. “Now I’m finally able to display my hats so people can see what I’m selling.”

Two other Baltimore-area small businesses – Celeebrate Us and Cuties on Duty – also received grants and remodeling assistance.

3 small business owners received renovations
Clyde (left), owner of Hats on Main; Lisa, owner of event-planner Celeebrate Us; and Chrystal and Myra, owners of fashion retailer Cuties on Duty.
Photo: Anne Oberlander

Community rebuilding

The program in Baltimore is another step in the ongoing work between Wells Fargo and the National Urban League, a civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment. Previous local collaborations between the two include co-hosting small business seminars and sustainable homeownership workshops.

And although the long-term impact of the renovations for the three businesses can only be realized over time, Jon Campbell, head of Community and Government Relations for Wells Fargo, says he already sees a positive impact on the local community.

“As cities get older, neighborhoods unfortunately can fall into decline. And it takes concerted efforts to improve housing and small businesses to help these communities rebuild,” says Jon. “Through partnerships with organizations like the National Urban League, Wells Fargo has the ability to make a difference on both fronts.”

Since its founding in 1910, the National Urban League has worked to elevate the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities. Today, the organization has 88 affiliates serving 300 communities in 36 states and the District of Columbia.

Stephanie DeVane, vice president of Entrepreneurship and Business Development for the National Urban League, sees the organization’s mission brought to life in the Baltimore renovation program.

“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to go in, redo the facade, redo the inside – bring it new life – and drive people to that small business,” she says.

Hats on Main before and after renovation
Baltimore small business renovations
Cuties On Duty before and after renovation
Counterclockwise from top left): Storage was an issue for Hats on Main before renovation. Clyde pitches in during his store’s renovation. The store’s updated, clean look.
(Counterclockwise from top left): Before renovation, the merchandise at Celeebrate Us was a “bit disorganized.” Wells Fargo volunteers help renovate the space. Subsequently, the store is party-ready.
(Counterclockwise from top left): Cuties on Duty was in need of shine and polish before the update. Volunteers and nonprofit Rebuilding Together work on the renovation. Chrystal and Myra at their store today, with Wells Fargo’s Denise Miles (center).