Successful Harlem-Based Entrepreneurs Expand or Launch New Establishments

Date:    Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Harlem, New York - Walk along any of Harlem’s central boulevards and notice the energy emanating from the neighborhood’s bustling culinary scene. The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone’s Business Resource and Investment Service Center (BRISC) has played a vital role in the growth of Harlem’s dining establishments, by serving as a primary lender to restaurants like Jado Sushi and Londel’s Supper Club on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, and Settepani and Harlem Shake on Malcolm X Boulevard. Thus far, BRISC has closed on three loans in fiscal year 2016 committing $575,000 to expand or launch new restaurants in Harlem.  

“Redefining the Harlem Dining Experience” –Londel Davis

Restaurateur Londel Davis began his career as a public servant with the New York City Police Department, where he received numerous citations and medals for meritorious performance. Davis retired in 1981, and since then has launched various entrepreneurial ventures in his native Harlem: Deli Heaven, the Neighborhood Barber Shop, L Lounge, and Londel’s Supper Club. In 1994, a portion of the Neighborhood Barber Shop was converted into Londel’s Supper Club, serving high-end Continental, Cajun, and Southern cuisine. Davis felt that the restaurant’s slogan, “redefining the Harlem experience,” captured the spirit of the then “new” Harlem.

With a $125,000 loan from BRISC, Davis launched the Green Parrot, a casual rhythm and blues themed lounge in Central Harlem. The BRISC loan financed a portion of construction costs and provided working capital during the initial period of the lounge’s opening. The Green Parrot is the only bar and lounge in the area, and one of the very few entertainment venues in this section of Central Harlem. The establishment is located on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, between 145th and 146th Streets.

“The BRISC loan provided the necessary working capital to complete the project.  It allowed me to pay-off venders and keep the project on track.  The loan terms are favorable to the business operations.  Without the loan, the project would not have been possible.”

Born and Bred in Harlem” –Melba Wilson

Melba Wilson was first introduced to the restaurant industry as a young adult, while working at Sylvia’s, Rosa Mexicano, and Windows on the World restaurants. At the world famous Sylvia’s, Wilson conceptualized and launched the popular Sunday Gospel Brunch, capturing Sunday brunch lovers from all over the city. In 2005, Wilson opened Melba’s at the intersection of Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 114th Street, one of the premier comfort food destinations in New York City.

Patrons often waited on long lines to enjoy Melba’s award-winning dishes and seamless service. With a BRISC loan of $250,000, Wilson was able to finance a portion of the restaurant’s expansion, which will augment its dining and bar seating capacity by almost 50%. Melba’s customer base consists of celebrity clientele, Harlem locals, other NYC residents, and tourists from all over the world.

Melba’s expansion is expected to be completed later this spring.

“It was great to receive a loan to expand my business from a Harlem-based community partner, such as BRISC. Harlem-based entrepreneurs often have a difficult time securing funding from traditional lenders. At the end of the day, it’s about economic development. I hope that as my restaurant expands, I am able to provide more jobs and service more patrons within my community.”

A Harlem Atmosphere with a Latin Influence” –Nancy Angelone

Frederick Douglass Boulevard has undergone a complete transformation, from the barren street of the 1980s to the vibrant streetscape it is today. Recognized as Harlem’s “Restaurant Row,” the Boulevard attracts a diverse clientele to its eclectic restaurant, bar, and café scene. Nancy Angelone and Eimear Conway have introduced a Latin American bar and restaurant to the mix, hoping to replicate the success of Lenox Avenue’s Corner Social. Angel of Harlem, located on 122nd Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, sits on the ground floor of a newly constructed residential building, a site that stood vacant for more than 40 years. In February 2016, BRISC provided Angel of Harlem with a $200,000 loan to finance construction, capital expenditures, and working capital.

Angel of Harlem opened its doors in August 2015.

“The [BRISC] loan is being used by Angel of Harlem to partly fund our fit out costs allowing the business to have sufficient working capital to meet its needs through the initial start up period. Working with BRISC has been a terrific experience as their presence and knowledge of the neighborhood meant we partnered with a lender who shared our vision for the business.”


Since its founding in 1996, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ) has been a catalyst in the revitalization of Upper Manhattan. UMEZ’s investments, upwards of $225 million to date, have provided funding to numerous organizations, businesses, and institutions that drive the local economy, create jobs, and add to the vibrancy of New York City. Significantly, these funds have also been leveraged to generate over $1 billion in private capital investments into Upper Manhattan. UMEZ continues to be a leader in reestablishing the area as one of New York’s most dynamic cultural districts through the Cultural Industry Investment Fund, established in 2004.


Photo Credits

Main Photo by Alex Ferro, courtesy of Angel of Harlem
Gallery Photo 1, courtesy of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone
Gallery Photo 2 by Larry Fink, courtesy of Melba's
Gallery Photo 3, courtesy of Angel of Harlem