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Capitalist Sage: Real Estate Strategies for Business Impacted by COVID-19 [Podcast]

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Capitalist Sage podcast about commercial real estate

Frank “Tradd” Cannon, joins us to discuss what businesses can do to improve their situation right now when they reopen, and long term, from a real estate perspective. With your Capitalist Sage podcast hosts Karl Barham and Rico Figliolini. Recorded socially safe in Peachtree Corners.

Resources:

Frank’s Phone Number: (404) 597-5737
Frank’s Email: Frank.Cannon@colliers.com

“We help owners, occupiers, investors of real estate. And for me specifically, I help occupiers of real estate. Office tenants with their whole real estate footprint, whether they own a building, whether they lease two offices in Atlanta and Buckhead, or they have a portfolio across the United States. And right now what we are doing is helping clients with rent deferrals, rent forbearance, renegotiating their leases as this is chaotic as it is. It’s a very opportunistic time for companies to revisit what the real estate footprint looks like and how they can optimize that going forward in a post COVID-19 world.”

Frank “Tradd” Cannon

Timestamp:

[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:03:00] – Frank’s Background
[00:03:57] – Impact on Tenants and Landlords
[00:07:26] – How to Negotiate Rent
[00:09:45] – Difference between Retail Types
[00:13:36] – Changes in Pricing
[00:15:58] – From Location to Innovation
[00:18:21] – Shift in Office Space
[00:26:32] – Investing in Technology
[00:37:51] – Closing

Podcast Transcript:

Rico: [00:00:30] Hi everyone. This is Rico Figliolini with Capitalist Sage and my co host Karl Barham. Hey Karl, how are you?

Karl: [00:00:38] I’m doing good. Rico, how are you doing?

Rico: [00:00:41] Good. Good. Working from home like everyone else had my cat in the background, so if you hear the meows, this was from the cat. But, the Capitalist Sage is on as usual, we have a great guest today. I’m going to let Karl introduce him. Before we get to that, though, I do want to talk about our sponsor for the family of podcasts, and that’s Hargray Fiber. They’ve been a great sponsor of ours, a supporter of Peachtree Corners Magazine that I produce. Hargray Fiber is big in the Southeast, certainly big here in the Metro area in South Georgia. They handle all the fiber optics for a lot of major companies and small businesses, so got to know them a little better. They are so involved in the communities that they go into. They are not your cable guy. So for a fiber cable company to help you with your business connections and provide support like you need to be able to do the telework and that we’re all doing or to work from, you know, the main office as we all go back into reopening, they’re the people to talk to HargrayFiber.com I’ll leave that with you and Karl, why don’t you take this into our guest.

Karl: [00:01:49] Absolutely. Well, today I’m so honored to have Frank Cannon, an associate with Colliers international Atlanta office here to talk about real estate strategies for small businesses that are navigating and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic that’s hitting so many businesses. We all know that businesses have been hit hard, especially small businesses. And they were forced to close in many cases all across the country. And they have to still deal with these bills that are coming in. Including bills from landlords, bills from suppliers, bills from utility. And so today we wanted to talk about some ways to approach understanding the landlord side of things, understanding the tenant side and have Frank share some strategies and things that can help people work together and partner. So we all get through this successfully. Hey Frank, how are you doing?

Frank: [00:02:57] I’m doing great. Thanks, Karl. Glad to be with you all today.

Karl: [00:03:00] Oh, that’s fabulous. Well, let’s start off by just, you know, tell us a little bit about yourself and what made you get into real estate, commercial real estate in particular.

Frank: [00:03:08] So I am an associate with Colliers. We’re in Midtown Atlanta. We’re a full service commercial real estate firm. We help owners, occupiers, investors of real estate. And for me specifically, I help occupiers of real estate. Office tenants with their whole real estate footprint, whether that’s they own a building, whether they lease two offices in Atlanta and Buckhead, or they have a portfolio across the United States. And right now what we are doing is helping clients with rent deferrals, rent, forbearance, renegotiating their leases as this is chaotic as it is. It’s a very opportunistic time for companies to revisit what the real estate footprint looks like and how they can optimize that going forward in a post COVID-19 world.

Karl: [00:03:57] So I’ll jump in with the first thing just to kind of ground everybody that that’s, that’s looking at this. What, what have you been hearing? The impact has been on landlords and tenants. Let’s start with hearing from your tenants that you represent. What are some of the things that they’re dealing with in making decisions? And then we’ll talk about things from the tenant standpoint that may have to deal with landlords.

Frank: [00:04:24] So the initial sentiment for most tenants, most companies is like everyone else, a slow down. You know, everyone has pulled back for companies and they budgeted accounts, they budgeted sales for May for June, and simply some of that’s not going to happen. And the sentiment for landlords is almost a trickle effect is, well, tenants may make a quarter or half of their May or June rent as their sales slowed down. And overall it is what we do to solve this rent problem, and solve this revenue problem, and you work together as a landlord and a tenant to ensure we all come out of this together. Communication has been great. For a lot of tenants and landlords. Because at the end of the day, we’re both in the, we’re all in the same boat and we’re working to figure out how to best get out of this together.

Karl: [00:05:27] Yeah. And then it’s an important thing, not only on the, on the pandemic health side. You’ve seen the theme that we’ll get through this together everyone. I think it’s really important when you think about landlords and tenants. So let’s say I’m an operator of a retail shop in a shopping center and I know that I may have the ability to pay this month’s rent, but I’m really concerned about paying the other expenses, maybe trying to keep some employees on, maybe being able to fund opening up again. What are some of the things that I should be thinking about? Just as everything is closed down, I should be doing immediately.

Frank: [00:06:14] So number one right away is have that conversation with your landlord. They, again, like I said, they’re willing to work with you and you just kinda need to tell them, you know, this is what’s going on. I have applied for a stimulus. I have enough funds to keep my staff, and here’s, here’s where I was pre-COVID. Here’s where I am now. And your landlord, you know, makes it easy on them. Let them know you’re working hard and what you need to keep your boat floating. You know maybe that is, maybe that’s May and June, I’m gonna need some help. I’ll repay it back by the end of next year. You know? On the other hand, if your lease is coming up soon. The last thing your landlord wants you to do is leave cause no one’s gonna feel that given all the uncertainty there could be talk to, talk to your real estate advisor, talk to your legal counsel, feel free to give us a call. You know, Hey, what we have right here to make sure that we survive three to four months. We can continue this partnership as you know, the best people placed in your shopping center, for example.

Karl: [00:07:26] What are some of the mistakes you said? So that’s interesting having that conversation in the case of where the lease is coming up within a six to one year period. What mistakes do you see small business owners making. When it’s time for a lease renewal or asks you for a new lease, and then bring it also into the context of with a pandemic COVID-19 happening, where we don’t know if something like this may happen again, where they have to shut down because of an outbreak in a particular area. It may not happen everywhere, but it
could happen in a zip code. Well, they happen for a week. What are some of the things, mistakes people are making when they, when they try to negotiate that?

Frank: [00:08:09] So a lot of, a lot of small businesses upfront, you know, it’s not their world to think about the landlord’s shoes, but at the end of the day, it is very tough for a landlord to fill an empty spot. There are costs to, you know, if you had a, if you were a pizza store and you’re moving and now the landlord wants a, call it a hair salon in there. They’ve got to reconfigure the space. They have to market it, and then they have to, and then they have to give the new tenant a reason to move in such as, you know, free paint, free carpet or a spruce up allowance, if you will. On the other hand, if a tenant just stays, that saves them a lot of money and a lot of headaches. A tenant has a lot of leverage to stay. So the first mistake is not asking for what they deserve to save the landlord a headache. And the tennet, you mentioned now that we have a pandemic world going forward, flexibility for any small business is going to be key. Instead of committing to a five year, we’re going to see a lot more three year commitments because we’re going to want the ability to get out sooner and with less headache. Look for more termination penalties. Maybe, Hey, if something comes up, I’ll give you a six months notice, Mr. Landlord and I’m going to be out of here. And you know, maybe a year ago, that’d be a harder push, but everyone at that table is going to understand what just happened. And again, we have common sense, you know, we can put in a termination penalty into a lease going forward.

Rico: [00:09:45] Do you see, Frank, do you see a difference between maybe retail office space, manufacturing space? Do you see a difference in those industries where there may be more leveraged in one than in another?

Frank: [00:09:57] You know, in the past, absolutely. You know, a retail, you know, the dentist in the dinner with practices, their clients were there. He’s maybe done the braces for all three kids and their mom, you know, he, he’s going to be there. Whereas offices, especially going forward, you know, more people are working from home. An office tenant may not be as inclined to stay in that place for 10 years they’ve been, because now half their guys can, half their guys and gals can work from home. And if there’s a cheap flight, cheaper spot down the road that satisfies their postcoded requirements, it could be a free game. Again, the existing landlord doesn’t want that to happen, but we can ask for a better reason to keep that small business in their current building.

Karl: [00:10:48] There’s something interesting. So when, when we work with business owners and we look at their lease, very often, we get a good sense of what the price per square foot is for a particular retail spot or office spot. So we kinda know what the norms are. But when those numbers came up, it was baked into an assumption for a restaurant space that might be 1,400 square feet versus 2,800 how many people fit in there? There was, or much revenue you can generate in that space? And a lot of commercial real estate is, the value of it is based on the income it can produce. If for a period of time folks are required to social distance in their place, how does that impact the price that they would, a landlord can expect for the same space in new leases?

Frank: [00:11:57] So I think we’re going to see, so you cut out for a bit. How are we going to see the price for space to be affected? Because basically the whole game’s changed. So I’ll harken back onto my original point of a shorter term, a three year commitment versified. The thing is, we don’t know the true appetite for the consumer to come back to these public spaces. You know, are they going to all of a sudden fill up, you know, a J Alexander’s dining room again? Probably not. It’s going to be more of a trickle and same thing for an office. Is everyone gonna run back into their dense open office space? We’ve got, we’re probably gonna return back in phases. I mention this because we don’t know what sales are gonna look like in the post COVID world. What dining out percent demographics is going to look like, and you do not want to be locked into a rate that escalates for five years when you don’t return to pre COVID levels for a while and all of a sudden your rent’s gone up three times.

Karl: [00:13:11] But that’s, that’s one thing that I’m curious about because if, if a business was generating a certain amount of revenue per month for the last five years in a space and not because of anything the business did.

Rico: [00:13:30] You froze up Karl, a little bit.

Karl: [00:13:36] Okay.where folks might have to today. In the last five years, they were generating a certain amount of revenue. Because of the laws, they now have to cut the amount of people they can service, whatever, whatever, the businesses. So let’s be,the reality of it, if rents stay at the same level and revenue, the volume goes down all of these businesses, it’s not just one, many businesses won’t be able to sustain the same rent levels and it’s okay to keep it that way, but a lot of businesses will, will probably fail in that model if they do that. If someone was signing a new lease, do you think that there’s, there’ll be a drag on the price per square foot if this continues on too long?

Frank: [00:14:29] There, I absolutely believe there’ll be a drag on price per square foot, especially in the retail world, because demand is simply not going to be there. Owners of retail establishments are going to be prudent and nervous are my two key words. You kinda hit it. We were doing so many sales with this much space and this many rules. We can’t serve as many people and consumers are scared. That I would say is 99% of a restaurant owners mentality right now. They’re not gonna wanna pay pre COVID rents, and I’m, I’m not a restaurant expert. I can guarantee you the guys who are leasing these restaurant spaces probably think the exact same way, if not way more detail on exactly what the new rent levels will be. And it’s not going to be for, for retail centers, they’re all the same. Rent one, one restaurant is going to be one, one over the other three. They’re not going in either one right now at the levels because they can’t afford it. And I think we will see a drag on a lot of retail rents and especially more reason to not commit to a five year term during this, during this time of uncertainty. You want to argue for flexibility, argue for a reason to get out if things turn sour like in this pandemic, which on one would have seen before this time.

Rico: [00:15:58] I was thinking about the, everything’s location, location, location, right? So the place where a restaurant might be, that might’ve been a hole in the wall place or something like that, where there they have to be found. I could see those going low. I could see sometimes in certain, certain areas, like let’s say prime downtown areas, they’re holding their strength a little bit because there’s still people there, right? Cousens is opening up 20 malls. By the end of the month, they’ll have 20 malls open reopen I should say,

Karl: [00:16:35] No, new malls.

Rico: [00:16:37] No, no. These are the reopening of the existing malls, you know, like, like Gwinnett Place Mall, maybe where the walking dead is being shot or something, I don’t know how many people actually go to these malls. So I can see certain types of properties really losing their renters, right? And, and maybe, does it make a difference whether it’s owned by your rate in New York or whether it’s owned by a local business in Atlanta?

Frank: [00:17:04] So I would say a little bit of both, but first and foremost depends on your relationship with your owner. I actually just read an article today. Add Acts, the, one of the owners of Add Acts. His name’s Mario Salayah. Atlanta was one of the first locations he reopened. As you know, Georgia has pretty aggressive reopening rules. He was able to talk to his landlord and the conversation is pretty much the tune of, Hey man, this is tough for all of us. Stay safe. We’ll get through this. Easy landlord communication. Hallmarks of any relationship, doesn’t matter if you’ve been paying the same guy for 10 years and again, it’s, it’s all the same thing in life. You have a conversation, you open it up. If, you know, if you haven’t had that relationship or, and you’re not transparent with them, your landlord may not be as willing to work with you. And if you, again, you’ve been there forever, the owner of your building or center recognizes your value. You’re tenancy and they want you to, they want, they need you there as much as you need to be there, I would say it doesn’t make a difference in ownership, it matters relationship.

Karl: [00:18:21] If I could ask, we’re talking about retail and I’m curious of how business operations or business models are changing for the office as well. Because many people are being asked to work from home, and that’s been happening in some form or shape for many years. But if we see a 20 point shift in the amount of people that were at home. There’s not as much need for office space combined with the fact that we shouldn’t have people in cubicle farms as dense with a guy next door might be coughing a lot and all of that’s going to create some dynamic. How can businesses shift the way they use their office space or models?

Frank: [00:19:10] So I think we, going forward, we will not recognize the, the office going forward and this pandemic expedited the timeline. We can argue that the last big change was everyone getting dense. You know, you see the old law firm, it’s all private, private offices, big wooden desks, you know, got 10 people in a whole floor just to be, just to be exaggerating. And then we shifted to the rework of the open office where you add 10 people in a 100 square feet. I think this is going to spur the move back towards less dense. Social distancing will be
implemented in the office where you know different teams have their own section, so if one gets sick, everyone goes home and they’re six feet apart, and this’ll be a great time for a business owner to reevaluate how much space they need. Because you may have figured out your sales team can do a lot more at home then you previously thought. You may have discovered that, Hey my top two engineers only need to come in twice a week. They don’t need their whole lean.

Karl: [00:20:30] Employees will love to hear that, but I’m wondering what, how do we, how do we resuscitate the, all the managers that you just put into cardiac arrest where they can’t walk down the hall and see all their people huddled over a computer looking busy.

Rico: [00:20:47] Let’s even stop there for a second. Cause I saw something come across the news and Kemp has extended the state of emergency public state of emergency through until the middle of June and it’s extending the stay at home for certain populations. So just to let you know. It was yesterday.

Karl: [00:21:09] Breaking news and impacting the conversation.

Frank: [00:21:14] So with that in mind, I think is just going to emphasize that a work from home policy is now going to be essential to any company going forward. Whether that is a digital check, a zoom check-in, whether it’s a phone call, whether it’s just an email conversation, how are you doing on your projects? But now again, we just, we have another month and a half to ensure people are being productive. And, well, you know, maybe we have another podcast where we determine how these digital check-ins happened, but at the end of the day, either teams figure out how to work from home for extended periods of time, or there, you know, things may not get done and that’s just not ideal for anybody.

Rico: [00:22:04] You know, I’ve been listening to some companies that have been putting out, if you, if you’re working can be done from home, then you need to do it at home.

Frank: [00:22:13] Right?

Rico: [00:22:14] Because they’re going to fear, right? The news is all talking about fear and people going back to work, being forced to go back to work cause it’s helping, right? And stay at home is gone. That means you should be able to go back. It’s a liability. Where do you put the kids? Kids are out of school. There’s no summer camps. Will these aspects, even if you go back to work, how are you going to deal with the individual office spaces and the common areas, the kitchen areas and all that? It’s going to be a mess now.

Frank: [00:22:47] So we’ve actually, we’re working on the reentry guide. Reentering the work, the workplace, and we’ve got a couple, one of the main points we hit on is beefing up your office’s cleaning schedule. You know, common areas, like you mentioned the lunch room. You know, you may have to start, your cleaning expense may go up twice, twice as much. Having
someone come in and disinfect doors, refrigerators, tables, chairs, people touch it. That’s, that’s now our new normal.

Karl: [00:23:18] I could see, I don’t know if you’ve ever gone into some workspaces that don’t have touchless toilet flushers and sinks. And you know, obviously it’s gone everywhere, but you go into them now and you gotta wonder what’s going on, right? There’s technology that can be played or force a shift. And I’m wondering, businesses that are in that market, installing, implementing those things might be seeing some demand coming as you’ve, people don’t want to touch things. And we have to start figuring out ways to exist in this new, in this new world.

Frank: [00:23:59] So besides the obvious one of toilet paper, I would say, everything digital, you know, the company’s zoom, WebEx, and like you mentioned touchless technology. Doors that, you know, open motion sensing doors, all retrofitting companies to make its workspace healthier. I feel like those will see demand all over the place. It’s interesting adding with a lady who ran, who was one of her biggest clients is Home Depot’s paint department and they’ve been going crazy cause a lot of people are home. What are they doing? Home improvement project. She was actually in a place up in Cumberland and the space next to her was empty and they did a lot of onsite training and we were having a conversation that then they wanted to look at that space, just used for a training room, training employees. They’re one of the bigger offices in Atlanta. And once I’ve gone by, business is booming, they’re training companies on zoom. Now all of a sudden they found they can do more with less. And it’s just, that’s one of the countless examples. This is just expedited change.

Rico: [00:25:15] I work at a newspaper in Sandy Springs, and the same thing we put out two, two papers all online, and so his 1,500 square feet were probably dropped down to maybe 700 square feet.

Frank: [00:25:29] Absolutely. And you’re going to save a lot of money that you can now put towards other avenues of your business. What, just out of curiosity now, that you’re reducing your rent expense by half. What are you going to invest in or what are some wishlist items for the newspaper?

Rico: [00:25:50] Well, so now there’s the problem though, right? It is a newspaper and it’s sort of an industry. My magazine works out fine because it’s where we are, but some publications have fallen by the wayside. Paper newspapers out in Dekalb and Marietta. They might as well close up. I think the last issue was six pages. I mean, they just might as well close. Some other publications are doing this stuff, but even online, Curb Atlanta. I think people know curb.com well, every city sort of has their own curbatlanta.com. Curb Atlanta let go of all it’s people from what I understand. So even online companies are seeing this issue, so.

Karl: [00:26:32] So it’s interesting. Rico, you mentioned about location, location, location when we talk about real estate. That has been the paradigm for as long as I’ve known anyone in real estate. So think about an office building. If you’re a fancy law firm, where do you want to be?
You want to be in Midtown on 14th street. If you’re a retailer, you want the Apple store. The Apple stores are only located in high dense retail areas, type of thing. Is there a shift that, that this may be accelerating where a location is probably not as important as the premium that’s paid on businesses for a location now shifts to something else. And I don’t know if you’ve heard of the building the Edge in the Netherlands. It is the greenest building in the world. But what it, what it highlights is a technologically advanced building that has sensors everywhere and what they built was a building where you want to be there because technology drives the value of the business. The building more than the physical location, and so I could see it, I know the technology exists, I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it in movies where you can measure the temperature of people in the room down to the individual. You see it in the movies when they see the hotspot and they drop the bomb on that place with swell people. And you can see, well, that technology is not that difficult to deploy in building. So if a coworker’s temperature is up three degrees, there might be a way to indicate that that room may have a problem. What do you think about investing in these technologies, types of things in place.

Frank: [00:28:39] Investing, and you cut out there for a bit. Investing in these technologies?

Karl: [00:28:43] Yeah. So to attract new tenants, landlords have been living on location. Now, now the question is, do they have to shift and shift their business model to leverage technology that now addresses safety. As part of.

Frank: [00:28:59] So I primarily think for the really retail and the industrial world, it’s still going to primarily be location. You’re going to put, you know, example Amazon, last mile distribution centers. They’re going to base that decision on location. The Apple store, they’re still going to want to be in a high traffic area. Office sector, I think you hit on it with talking about the Edge. It’s not, it’s going to, location will lose importance. It’s not going to be about where the space is and how much, how big it is, but the quality. There’s going to be an emphasis on quality. Two big reasons that this popped into my head. One, everyone’s going to want it to be clean. Everyone’s gonna want it to be sterile. Everyone’s going to have social distancing, self-opening doors, that’s going to be on the forefront of anybody who goes into the office a lot. I think overall we’re going to see less people go into the office as much. Not drastically, but over time there will be less people going into the office, nine to five, given what happened. So you’re not going to need as much people in there. But when they do go in there, what are they gonna want? They’re gonna want, they’re gonna want the AC to change depending on how people were in the room. They’re going to want the internet of things to know, Oh, Karl’s here at 8:30. He likes his latte at 8:45 delivered from the inside starbucks. Karl would get the text, it texts your phone. Would you like your Starbucks? Yes or no. Rico and Karl are and a meeting with three people. We don’t need the AC running on full blast cause there’s a conference room for 10. We only have three in there. And that recognizes that from your outlook calendar, this technology is there. And again, this is just being expedited in going forward. People will want better, safer more technologically advanced spaces as opposed to the location premium.

Rico: [00:31:05] You know, it’s funny when you think of Tesla, for example, right? The, the biggest, one of the biggest things in there that they talk about is the, is the filtration system in Teslas. That it’s actually better than, let’s say M95, you could be, if there’s something outside the car and you close yourself in, then you would be safe from it, right. Because of the filtration system on that. There’s going to be, and they’re working with, I think it’s ResMed now to make, to make those, what do you call it? The ventilators. What’s the company doing that? That’s based out of Atlanta I think. But I agree with you, Frank. There will be changes and stuff, but I think it also depends on what that business and specific is, right? If you’re a service business that you could do anywhere, that makes less of a big deal where you’re geographically, like you said, if you’re in Amazon, then you’re that last mile fulfillment. Certainly you want to be near transportation likely. A hub like Atlanta.

Frank: [00:32:07] To take a step back. I just remembered, so I’m sure, are y’all familiar with the lead verification system for buildings, energy efficient? Something is, or is lead gold, lead platinum. There’s also, I think we will see an explosion. There’s a relatively younger standards called the well building standard and it basically rates how healthy a building is for its employees. Things you know, how much natural light are buildings getting? What’s the fitness center like? How many times is the air changed? I think we will see that explode and that will take a larger spotlight in decisions going forward. You know, maybe only the Tesla health advocates knew about how many air changes per 1,000 people were happening on a floor. That I think it’s going to start to take a major spotlight.

Karl: [00:33:01] There might be one other interesting thing when we talk about technology, especially mobile technology, all the apps that allow you to check into a location, or you walk into a store and it sends you a coupon to your phone, tracks your Bluetooth. I could see that being used in a different application. Now, if a salon has a customer that five days later tests positive for COVID-19, they have the ability to know everyone that came into that salon. It could be as simple as there is a credit card transaction, to more sophisticated where you walk into some businesses or gyms and you literally have to check in with an ID or your phone so it knows you were there and they can go in, identify all 300.

Rico: [00:33:57] But that’s almost gyms, right, with the passes that you go in

Karl: [00:34:00] With the passes, exactly. Okay. So contact tracing could become easier because you could find and message 350 people that have been in that space or interacting with somebody from the time the person that tested positive and they can get a notification to go to their testing center and get tested and self isolate. Now that technology exists, small business owners are thinking about that. Well, I can think of some companies, point of sale companies, others that could diverge into these areas and offer this to give clients comfort, customers comfort that, that there’s something that’s helping control this as they go into space.

Rico: [00:34:47] Do you, Frank, do you see, I can see that and I can, you’re familiar with like Simply Safe and the Nest thermostats and stuff like that?

Frank: [00:34:56] Right, right.

Rico: [00:34:56] Smart technology, right. All those are plug and play pretty much in a home. I mean I can, I can also see maybe commercial space being like that, right? Because a lot of that is plug and play. A lot of that doesn’t cost a lot of money because it’s either using Bluetooth or wifi technology to communicate. And modualize and put into different rooms in, in an office suite, I mean.

Karl: [00:35:22] We were seeing some of this technology at Smart Expo last year. They’re putting the sensors in lights and…

Frank: [00:35:38] I haven’t seen it in person, but the most common that I’ve read about it’s a sensor in your employee ID badge. You know, the one that you use to get off, you swipe in elevator, it takes you to your floor and then you buzz that and to get into the, if your office has a security system and there’s that. No, this is Karl’s workplace. This is, this is, Karl has an appointment at three and again, the dispensers know how many people are in a conference room, the lunch room at any given time. Maybe we get to that to where it’s on your phones as well.

Karl: [00:36:21] Well, I’ve got a question that comes back to dealing with, with the current state that folks are going. I’ve heard of subsidies partnering with major landlords, that were tenants, where a landlord that give deferral, get some kind of recognition and/or benefit for that. Have you seen that? And can you describe how that really works?

Frank: [00:36:49] Right. For two, and they’re real close to us. Sandy Springs and Peachtree Corners. You know, so I get their alerts all the time. Just trying to stay connected. Peachtree Corners was offering for any landlord that offered their tenants a 60 day rent deferral, a free showcase as a community partner. They get better advertising opportunities. It’s just really a focus on you helping the city, helping these businesses survive and thrive during these tough times. And for Sandy Springs perimeter chamber was offering a free advertising spot for mother’s day essentials during this crisis. I mean, mother’s day is right around the corner these days, all blurred together. And that’s typically a, that’s a big, big sales event for some companies, and these are just a few of the examples, but a lot of people, a lot of these landlords, cities all coming together to try to make things happen during this tough time.

Rico: [00:37:51] Guys, I think we’re towards the end of our time together.

Karl: [00:37:58] Yep, absolutely. Well, you know, I want to thank you so much, Frank, for joining us today and sharing some of your knowledge about, real estate and how to deal with tenants and landlords. Really helpful information to do that. How would people reach out if they wanted to ask you questions? What’s the best way to get in contact with you and learn more?

Frank: [00:38:27] Honestly, I would say just shoot me a text or email me. So I’m Frank.Cannon@colliers.com and then, I mean, shoot me a text at (404) 597-5737. That’s anything from, Hey, you know, my lease is coming up in three, five, six months. I don’t want to leave, but I’m not sure what to do to make a decision going forward. Or if you’re, you know, you might be struggling for May or June rent. You know, this is, this is a headache. This is a time stop for a lot of business owners who have a million things to worry about right now. And for us it is our job and it’s a free service for tenants to occupy space. Just give us a shout and we can, let’s have a conversation. We’ll negotiate with your landlord on your behalf. And so we can do that and get through this together.

Karl: [00:39:19] Thank you so much for that. And we do recommend, get in touch with real estate professionals if you don’t know how to negotiate with your landlord. But it’s as simple as picking up the phone and having a conversation. You’re both in partnership. You both got to work through this together and you got, you’re typically in a contract for a number of years. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld business advisors of Atlanta, Peachtree. We’re working a lot with business owners in this time to help them figure out ways and strategies to continue to improve their business. And help think about different scenarios of where they need, they may want to exit the business. Right now it’s about surviving, but it is the best time to start planning on your exit strategy for your business. And you can contact me at 770-766-9855 or KBarham@TWorld.com if you want to talk to myself or one of our other advisors to help you navigate through this and talk about your exits. Rico, how bout yourself? What have you got coming up in the upcoming months?

Rico: [00:40:36] Sure. So we’re working on, we’re actually working on the next issue of Peachtree Corners Magazine, the June-July issue. It’s going to be chock full of a lot of stuff in there dealing with what’s going on now. Some great stories that we’re going to be telling about what people are doing during this COVID-19, how they’re repositioning themselves a little bit during this time because a lot of people that just home, not that they’re not doing anything, we all should be teleworking, right? But some people are just pivoting if they own their own business or they’re doing a gig economy and the trying to figure out what to do with that. So the magazine will be coming out the first week in June, I believe is where we’ve said it. And if me personally also doing Mighty Rockets, in social media and podcasts and doing a lot more podcasting, with Karl and bunch of other people, doing a lot of branding, a lot of online social media a lot of video work. I’m doing it socially safe. So if you need me, MightyRockets.com if you need anyone to help you with production or social media content or branding, or you can call me or text me, 678-358-7858.

Karl: [00:41:47] Well, thank you so much Rico and Frank. Really appreciate you joining us and give us some, some really good tips and insights that hopefully.

Rico: [00:41:58] Hopefully we’ll be there at some point.

Frank: [00:42:04] It was great. Thank you again for having me

Rico: [00:42:09] And thank you.

Karl: [00:42:10] Alright, take care everyone. Bye.

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The Colorful Woven Threads that Make Up the Fabric of Our City

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Jay Patton, Traditional Master Barber

Gwinnett County is getting more and more culturally and racially diverse. Remember the old adage ‘Variety is the spice of life’? In today’s climate of social unrest and world-wide protests for racial justice, we should move towards healing by getting to know our neighbors and broaching some delicate conversations. It can be scary and cathartic — and it can be a little heartbreaking, too.

The heartbeat of Peachtree Corners is strong because of the amazing people who live and work here. I reached out to some from a variety of backgrounds. Each of their accounts will have you shouting, Vive la différence!

Jay Patton

Jay Patton

Traditional Master Barber Jay Patton moved to Peachtree Corners two years ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He noted that his hometown is less diverse, primarily Caucasian, and he’s been enjoying the “good mix” of people here.

“In Minnesota, growing up, there was more racial tension,” Patton said. He felt a larger divide between the privileged and the underprivileged. “There’s less opportunity for certain people in certain states. You come down here and if you have a good credit score, you blend in as long as you’re putting out good vibrations,” he explained.

At your service

After working near Perimeter Mall for five years at Gino’s Classic Barbershop, he decided to venture out on his own. “One of my customers told me about Blaxican,” Patton said. The fusion restaurant serves food inspired by Southern soul cooking and Mexican classics. “Being biracial, I thought that concept was catchy. I came here, drove around a bit and I felt good energy,” he recounted.

Patton opened Traditional Shave Masters Barbershop at 5260 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. “This area is blowing up. I think it’s going to be bigger than Sandy Springs,” he said. He likes the plans for the area.

The barbershop offers “male services — straight edge razor work, blades, steam towels, shaving beard work. With different packages to choose from — like The Distinguished Man, The Exquisite Man, The Classic Man — there’s something for everyone. Female clients with short hairstyles are welcome too,” Patton said. “We have competitive prices and talented, diverse barbers.”

 Things had started picking up well, “and now we’re going through this Corona stuff. It’s pretty challenging,” he shared.

Cutting through racial lines

Patton prides himself on being able to serve the whole community, no matter what race, background or ethnicity. “Most shops are racially separated. People are more comfortable coming in when they see people who look like them,” he said. “I want everyone to look in the window and feel like they can come in. I play jazz music. Everyone likes the smooth, mellow stuff.”

Men have different ways to describe how they want their hair and beards trimmed, depending on their ethnicity, where they’re from, race and even social status, according to Patton. “It’s up to the barber to ask the right questions to really understand what the client wants so you can hook him up,” he said.

He noted that since the rock and roll era, when men grew their hair out, the white barber shop kind of died off as they gravitated to salons. “But now the traditional barber is back. It’s becoming more appealing to all men, of all races,” Patton explained. “Around Atlanta, men want to look good. That’s a good thing!”

No barber school teaches how to cut across racial lines, he said. “My instructor was an old school Irish dude. It’s all hair, but the way you approach it is different. One might use different tools.”

Wherever he worked, he sought to cut hair he was unfamiliar with and learn to cut all types of hair. “I’ve been to a Russian shop, a Puerto Rican shop, a black shop. I made sure to get out of my comfort zone,” Patton said.

Patton could pass for either white or black. “The way I look, people don’t know. I’m chameleon-like. My father is Creole and my mother is Puerto Rican. That’s a loaded soup bowl,” he chuckled. “I had a mother who respected me and explained everything. She watered my seed and I had self-esteem. I love all people. We’re all connected. We’re all on this Earth together.”

He thinks a lot of people would be surprised if they did their 23andMe genetic reports. “I did it and I was mind-blown,” he reported. “I grew up Puerto Rican, but in actuality, I started off Indonesian! I have some Egyptian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, British, Irish, German, Apache Indian, Sanda Gambian — things I had to look up! It was surprising to me. It opened up my eyes.”

He added that people mistake him for Egyptian all the time, “so it was interesting to find out I have some Egyptian in me. I love telling the dudes in Duluth, I started out Asian!”

Still, Patton said, at the end of the day, it’s all the indoctrination and cultural stuff that gets in the way. “We’re all the same color on the inside,” he said. “When we’re little, we play and hang out together. Somewhere in the mix, we get taught all these differences.”

All connected

“As soon as we figure it out and start loving each other again, it’s going to be alright,” he continued. “The message has to be delivered differently to the different communities, but it’s the same. I have to empathize with their situation first, then I can flip it around to some other perspectives.”

Patton believes that having exposure to different kinds of people is good and makes things easier. “Because of where I’ve come from, I’m able to communicate with different races,” he said. “My struggles have shaped and humbled me. I’m able to be around a lot of diverse cultures, probably more so than most people. That’s always helped me; I can mingle through racial lines.”

“Asian, Mexican, white, black — I see more people living harmoniously here. Maybe it’s southern hospitality, but people tend to be more polite here. They smile and try to be nice to each other, and that means everything. Being courteous is an initial connection with people.”

“I feel like I have a broader truth, a natural perspective in the spiritual world,” Patton continued. “We are all connected, but some people like the divisions. They’re capitalizing off of us: the red, the blue, the white, the black, and all that junk. As soon as we figure it out and start loving each other again, it’s going to be alright.”

Dr. April Hang, PharmD

Dr. April Hang, PharmD

Dr. April Hang, PharmD, hails from Petersburg, Virginia and is of Filipino heritage. Her dad was in the Army, so her family traveled a lot. She spent a long time in Germany, where she learned to speak a little of the language, and she studied at Virginia Commonwealth University – Medical College of Virginia School of Pharmacy.

Dr. Hang is Catholic and attends St. Monica Church. Her husband is Buddhist and their three children have been baptized in the Catholic faith.

She opened Peachtree Pharmacy at 5270 Peachtree Parkway in 2012. It’s a compounding pharmacy were medications are customized.“Our clientele is diverse. We serve Hispanics, African Americans, white Americans, Asians. We have seniors all the way down to babies and pets that we take care of, ”Dr.Hang said.“We offer compliance packaging for convenience. It’s helpful for seniors. We put medications in labeled blister packs. They can be organized by day or sorted by morning, afternoon, and evening if necessary.”

And, she said, Peachtree Pharmacy delivers, which is especially important for high-risk patients.

“Compounding is an out-of-the box option for patients who have exhausted all their options and want to try something else. We do carry some traditional medications as well,” she explained. “It takes time to make everything. You have to make sure all the ingredients are included. You’re not just pouring pills out and counting them. You actually have to melt something down, make lollipops, gummies, lozenges or capsules. We have to do our math calculations carefully to make it the exact strength the physician wrote it for.”

Mom-preneur

“I’m first generation American, as well as the first person to start my own business in my family,” Dr. Hang said. She attributes her drive to her dad, who always endeavors to find a solution.

She said that she feels welcome here. “It’s like a small town. That’s why I love Peachtree Corners,” she said. “A lot of our patients are like family to us. This is a great city, a great place to have a small business, especially with Peachtree Corners expanding.”

THC and CBD advocate

One of the things Dr. Hang has gotten involved with is the effort in Georgia to make low THC oil (less than 5%) available to patients suffering from chronic pain, cancer, PTSD, HIV, autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s and other conditions. “I feel like [CBD/THC] oil can help several patients,” she said. “It’s yet another alternative for people.”

She said that doctors can help a patient get a medical card for it. “Everything has been passed in Georgia, and there is a THC oil registry here now, but there’s no access. I think there are over 14,000 patients registered. They have the card, but there is no place where they can go buy it yet,” Dr. Hang said. “We’re just waiting for the infrastructure so people can start applying for manufacture and distribution.”

Unfortunately, the process to get access has been delayed due to COVID-19. It’s likely to be another year or two before access is available for patients.

Diversity at the pharmacy

Dr. Hang welcomes students of diverse backgrounds, some from out of state, who do rotations at her pharmacy. “Most of the time, I say ‘yes,’ because the students are up-to-date on the new things. They keep you updated,” she said. “I try to make it practical for them. They work in the store. I take them to a marketing event. I like to do a couple of little health fairs. I mix it up for them so that they see what we actually do. I didn’t get that when I was in pharmacy school.”

There have been times when a staff member has had an unpleasant interaction and they feel that some racism was directed towards them. “I have one full-time pharmacist, three part-time pharmacists and three full-time pharmacy technicians. One is Asian and the others are African American,” she said.

“When COVID-19 had just started [appearing here], there was a client looking for N95 masks; she wasn’t a regular. She was upset we didn’t have any N95 masks. She told my pharmacist, who is black, “I don’t know what you have to say that is going to carry any value.”

  As Dr. Hang was cleaning the store one day, an older lady came in, looked around and asked, “Why is everybody black in here?” She said, “I don’t see anything wrong with that. There are standards and testing that you have to pass in order to be in this position. Everyone here is qualified.” Dr. Hang added that she has never had issues with racial tensions personally. “It’s a little disheartening that it still occurs,” she said.

She suggested a city-wide cultural festival to help improve racial tensions. “If we can learn more about our neighbors, we’ll be able to understand them better. There are a variety of cultural backgrounds in Peachtree Corners, so let’s celebrate them!”

“When I’m at Peachtree Pharmacy, I post on Facebook, “Come by and see me. Come give me a hug!” Customers come in and tell me, “I miss you so much.” It’s nice to catch up with a lot of the regulars,” she said. “I always post: Free Hugs not Drugs!”

Maurie Ladson

Maurie and Ron Ladson

Maurie Ladson is a Program Director at Corners Outreach, an organization providing a multigenerational approach to helping underserved children with specialized tutoring. Parents are given assistance with career paths, workshops, unemployment and anything they may need to navigate in the education system. Their goal is to achieve a 100% high school graduation rate among the students they serve.

Ladson clarified underserved as “communities or people living amongst us who don’t have all the necessary resources.” She explained, “They may not be earning a living wage. A lot of them are immigrant families. There’s a challenge with education and the language.”

Elementary, my dear

By focusing on elementary school students, the intention is to prepare them for success in middle school and high school. “Then hopefully, to higher learning, either a four-year education or, sometimes, they prefer to do some kind of trade,” Ladson said.

“We’re not focused on one demographic,” she continued. “We welcome all the children who need assistance. The mix varies. In Norcross and on our DeKalb side, we have a high percentage of Latino children. At our Meadow Creek location, there’s a mix of children — Indian, American, Hispanic.”

The Corners Outreach offices are located in Peachtree Corners. Ladson said that Executive Director Larry Campbell liked the name, “as the goal is to touch “every corner” of the community.” The organization partners with Title 1 schools in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties, including Peachtree Corners and the surrounding areas, and helps 450 families/children.

“We work with them during the normal school year; we provide after-school tutoringfor two and a half to three hours. We’re supplementing and enhancing what the school is teaching,” Ladson said. “There’s a big focus on reading comprehension and math. We then provide nine weeks of summer camp which focus on reading, math, games and a craft.”

School principals identify the children in most need. There is also input from counselors, teachers, teacher liaisons, center coordinators and ESOL [English to speakers of other languages] coordinators. “We also have volunteers that play a key role in our success. We’re so thankful,” she said. “Schools like Wesleyan, GAC, Perimeter Church and individuals in our wonderful Peachtree Corners community come out and volunteer their time.”

Masks with a purpose

Due to COVID-19, Corners Outreach was unable to tutor or assist families in person for some time. “We began communication via Zoom, WhatsApp, video chat, telephone calls. There was a big need to assist in setting up Internet. Many of the families didn’t have it,” she continued.

“Our organization was able to place Chromebooks in the community for children to be able to do their homework. It was still challenging because in a lot of cases they’re sharing either a phone or a hot spot. With two to four children in the family of various ages, needing to do homework with one device, that was difficult.”

To help underemployed parents, the organization developed Masks with a Purpose. After surveying the parents, they found they had 101 mothers with sewing skills that could be used to provide much-needed masks in the community.

“They sew masks and earn a living wage, $4 per mask,” Ladson said. “We launched the Corners Store on June 22 so people can go online and purchase a mask to support our cause.” To purchase a mask, visit cornersoutreach.org. If you don’t need a mask, you can help by giving a donation.

“We’re looking to donate 1,000 masks to farmworkers and 10,000 masks to children in poverty, who can’t afford to buy three or four masks or have the throwaways,” she said. It’s a great cause,” she said. You can donate masks to the effort through their website.

Beauty in all colors

“I’m Mexican American,” Ladson said. “I’ve been in Peachtree Corners for 20 years. My husband is black, dark-skinned African American. People might look at us a little differently. I’m different and I’m good with it.” She and her husband Ron recently celebrated 20 years of marriage.

Having frequented several places of worship over the years, they most recently identify as Protestant and have been attending North End Collective.

Ladson said she witnessed some social injustice in the workplace during her career in banking. A Peruvian teller was the number one salesperson in the bank, exceeding her numbers, yet it was an under-performing white American teller who inexplicably was moved to another location and offered a raise.

“I think in Georgia, Atlanta and in Peachtree Corners, we still have room to grow,” she continued. “I’ve seen a different level of acceptance, if we’re going to call it improvement, absolutely.”

Miriam and Ed Carreras

Miriam and Eddie Carreras
Miriam and Eddie Carreras

By pure coincidence, Miriam and Ed Carreras shared a similar history predating their marriage of 48 years. They both left Cuba with their families at a young age, and within five to seven years, they became naturalized U.S. citizens.

After a 20-year career as a microbiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Miriam is now a Realtor with RE/MAX Prestige. “I guess, given my name and former clients, I get quite a few referrals from Spanish-speaking buyers. I would say most of my clients right now are Hispanic,” she said. Hispanics, who can identify as any race, make up 15.2% of the population in Peachtree Corners.

Miriam works in residential real estate, both on listings — people selling their homes — as well as helping buyers find their dream homes. Being bilingual, she is a huge asset to the community. She is able to help English and Spanish speakers navigate the sometimes-challenging waters of real estate.

A home is one of the biggest and most important investments a family will ever make, and Miriam is happy to provide her clients with excellent customer service, every step of the way.

Ed was an attorney with The Coca Cola Company for about 20 years. He retired from the company in 2003 and joined a law firm. He retired from the firm in February of this year. “We were supposed to travel, and now we’re homebound because of COVID-19,” he said.

As an attorney, much of his work was international. “I dealt with a number of countries, like Japan, countries in Europe, in Latin America, and so on,” Ed shared.

He served on the Board of Goodwill of North Georgia for a number of years and was Chair of the Board for two years. “Goodwill had a significant relationship with the Hispanic community. One of the things I got involved in was developing a robust system for their strategic plan,” Ed said.

In studying the projection of population changes, he and his fellow board members identified the important growth of the Hispanic community and the need for more Hispanic contacts and people with language skills in the organization.

A home in Peachtree Corners

The Carreras family built their home in Neely Farm in 1998. Both are happy with the amount of diversity in Peachtree Corners. “I think there is a good mix of people. You see a nice diversity of cultures represented here,” Ed said. “My experience is more in the restaurants since I like eating. We’ve gone to a lot of different types.”

“I think there’s pretty good diversity,” Miriam added. “Even in our subdivision, we’re diverse.”

They haven’t had any negative experiences because of their ethnicity in recent years. As a teenager, Ed recalled an incident at a restaurant in Miami. His family was speaking Spanish, and a man at a nearby table addressed them, saying, “Go back to Cuba!”

“My father was surprised. He turned around and in perfect English said, “I’m sorry, does it bother you if we speak Spanish?” The guy ended up apologizing,” Ed remembered. “I was 13 or 15 at the time. It stuck in my mind because my father handled it so perfectly. The guy said, “You speak English very well.” My father said, “Yes, I was educated in the United States. I went to an Ivy League school.” The guy just kept shrinking.”

Ed said that everyone carries prejudices based on faulty stereotypes. “From my own experience, the best way to eliminate prejudice is to be made aware that the stereotype supporting the prejudice is not correct,” he explained. “Anything that helps an individual realize that the stereotype is wrong should help in reducing prejudice.”

“Education highlighting non-stereotypical members of a group could help,” Ed suggested, “as well as the promotion of events that bring members of diverse groups together in a social setting.”

Joe Sawyer

Joe and Kimberly Sawyer

As the city is building a physical pedestrian bridge over Peachtree Parkway, resident of 25 years and equity warrior, President and Cofounder of Bridges Peachtree Corners Joe Sawyer has been launching intensive volunteer efforts to build metaphorical bridges between races and social classes in the city. “I guess you can say it’s about black and white; we’re trying to bring equality up to where it needs to be,” he shared.

Bridges is a non-profit funded by grants and generous donations from the community. The board is made up of a diverse group who share Sawyer’s mission to close the gap between the affluent and the less affluent parts of town. They’ve been working on racial diversity and economic disparity since 2013.

Through school counselors, they identify needs at Peachtree Elementary and other area schools, assisting in any way they can — from electric pencil sharpeners in the classroom to Christmas dinners for families. They’re currently partnering with xfinity to provide internet access so children can do their schoolwork at home during the pandemic.

Affectionately known as Preacher Man, Sawyer would love to help more areas of the city reach their potential. He espouses the Holcomb Bridge Corridor Project , the city’s plan to revamp the area, and hopes it will get underway soon. “We’ve done the easy part, the Forum and Town Center area. Now let’s roll up our sleeves and do the hard part,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer comes clean

This is a man who will “tell it like it is.” He is refreshingly unafraid to level with you. Sawyer attends Life Center Apostolic Church in Dunwoody. His faith shines through in everything he touches, including his company name of 20 years, Alpha Omega Carpet Cleaning, inspired by the book of Revelation.

Since many are home with more time than usual on their hands, the pandemic has Sawyer busier than ever. “I build relationships with my customers. By the time I leave their house, I’m their friend,” he said. He also prides himself on his effective carpet cleaning services, which avoid harsh chemicals, as he is a cancer survivor.

The United Nations

Together with his wife Kimberly of 31 years (who is white), Sawyer has raised his two daughters, now 29 and 23. “She’s my backbone. She keeps me grounded,” he said. His daughters are now raising his five grandkids in Peachtree Corners.

The Sawyers have two blond, blue-eyed grandchildren and three who are light skinned black. “I’ve got everybody in my family — we have the United Nations over here,” Sawyer laughed.

In 1992 things were more challenging for biracial couples. Sawyer’s in-laws didn’t allow him into their home until two years after the marriage; now they’re the best of friends, despite many earlier battles. “They had to make sure I was going to take care of their daughter. I think that was one of the biggest issues,” he said. “Mixed marriages are more common now, and more likely to be accepted by both families, but you still have issues with certain people. I just try to keep it real and be myself.”

Sawyer shared a story from his senior year in high school (1982), when he was given an ultimatum: stop dating his white girlfriend or quit the football team. The young lady’s mom called the school because they had published a picture of them in the school magazine.

The girl’s mom had known about their relationship. In fact, they were among the few biracial couples at the time who did not hide it. But when other parents saw the photo, it became a problem. Sawyer elected to pass on what may have been a lucrative career and quit the team.

Sawyer noted that things have changed for the better. “It’s a new generation, we’re improving a whole lot,” he said. He’s unaware of any negative issues experienced by his daughters about being biracial.

While Peachtree Corners is very diverse, Sawyer said he still experiences some people who are prejudiced. During a recent job, a client had left the door open for him. It saddened him to learn that his client’s neighbor reached out to inform her, saying, “There’s a black man in your house.”

“[Racism] is still there, but overall, I think Peachtree Corners is a welcoming community. You might have some people stuck in their ways, but you just have to learn to overlook them. We stopped and we said a prayer for the lady,” Sawyer said.

He believes the cause of divisiveness is that some people don’t want to lose control of what they’ve got. “As long as we feel that one race is better than the other, we’re always going to have a problem. Both communities have work to do. Now is the perfect time for us to work on race relations in America,” Sawyer affirmed.

Preacher Man

When he was little, Sawyer told his dad, “I want to be like you when I grow up.” His father replied, “You don’t want to be like me, son, you want to be like Jesus.”

“So that’s what I try to do. As soon as we realize that we’re all made in God’s image, we’re going to be OK,” he said. “I don’t hate anybody. I try to get along with everybody. Don’t let politicians divide us any more than we’re divided. That’s the biggest problem. We listen to what’s on TV. I don’t need anybody to tell me who I like and who I don’t like.”

 “We have to come together,” he continued. “I’m thankful for the friends the Lord has put in my life. We have to change our perception of our neighbors. Not all people of a different race are bad. Be there for your friends.”

Sawyer added that everyone needs to work on racism as a society. “Both the white and black communities have work to do. Now is the perfect time for us to work on race relations in America. The whole world sees what’s going on, politicians fighting over this and that. We don’t have any togetherness,” he said. “Let’s take a stand and let’s be one. We claim to be one nation under God but how can we be under God if we’re at each other’s throats?”

Father Darragh Griffith

Rev. Darragh Griffith

Rev. Darragh Griffith is originally from Dublin, Ireland and has been in the U.S. for 24 years. Following 10 years at Holy Family in Marietta, he’s been the pastor at Mary Our Queen (MOQ) — the only Catholic church in Peachtree Corners — for four years.

“We welcome the community to come see our new church. It’s a beautiful, traditional church based on Saint Gerard’s in Buffalo. If you’re exploring questions about the Catholic faith, we’re here,” Father Griffith offered.

Though the present church is just a year old, the parish has been here since 1998. The pews, stained-glass windows and altars were taken from the old church in Buffalo, New York.

Mass during the pandemic

“We’ve been live-streaming masses on YouTube and our website. But now we’re back,” Father Griffith said. The church has an outdoor mass on Sundays at 8:30 a.m. for people who feel more comfortable outside, and services in the church on Sundays at 11 a.m. and Saturdays at 5 p.m.

Masks and social distancing are expected at the indoor services. Seating is roped off to allow for every second pew to be occupied. “It’s working out for this time,” he said.

 The parish

The makeup of the MOQ parish is quite diverse. “We’ve got people from every continent. We have a lot of Asian people from Vietnam, for example. People from the African continent, Nigeria and other countries, Hispanic and white Anglo, as well,” shared Father Griffith.

MOQ provides spiritual and financial outreach to Peachtree Corners families through The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP). Volunteers make home visits with families and individuals who call the helpline seeking food or financial help.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, MOQ SVDP has assisted over 150 individuals. The help line number is 678-892-6163.

The domestic church

For Father Griffith, what happens at home is as important as what happens at church. “In these times, I believe the home is crucial. Parents have a great and joyful responsibility. The family has never been as important, from where we stand, as it is now,” he said. “That’s where you can lead by witness to your children. Not so much by words, but by example. The family is crucial.”

He said that the church has always taught that the home is the domestic church. “The home is where parents hand on the faith to their children. I think that’s crucial,” Father Griffith said. “My work, the church’s work is not going to bear fruit if it’s not happening at home.”

Spreading God’s love

“It’s sad to see some of the things that we see on TV, some of the violence. It is kind of sad and disturbing, what’s happening,” Father Griffith said. “The church believes in treating everyone with respect and love. We’re a universal church. We love and accept everyone. In the Catholic faith, we’ve got people of all sorts of cultures, backgrounds, traditions.”

For a solution to today’s troubled climate, Father Griffith leads with the suggestion that we respect one another. “We’re all made in the image of God. Everyone is precious in God’s eyes. Every person is created through God’s love,” he said.

Father Griffith said that he knows it’s been hard during the pandemic for people to meet up, interact and socialize. “If we can get together and have that as a base, we’ll not be afraid of each other,” he said. “And love, that’s what Jesus spoke about, loving all people. That’s what our Catholic faith teaches us.”

Faith is critical for Father Griffith. “If we’re living our faith, that informs our decisions and our behavior. As it says in Scripture, our lives should be based on faith and our relationship with God,” he said. “Hopefully people will be open to God and to His Spirit at this time.”

Karl Barham

Karl Barnham

Karl Barham, President of Transworld Business Advisors of Atlanta, Peachtree, started the business with his wife, Ann, two years ago. They own a local office of the franchise in Peachtree Corners. 

“We relocated from New York City, got married and started a family here,” he said. “We found Peachtree Corners to be a fabulous place to live, work and raise a family.” They’re a Christian family and attend Close Perimeter Church.

Barham explained business brokers specialize in buying and selling businesses. “We do small, neighborhood businesses — any size, up to maybe about $25 million. We arrange to find the buyers and we help them get the deal done.”

Growing up black

“I’m first generation in the U.S. My family is from Jamaica, the third poorest county in the Caribbean. They came here, raised their kids and we’ve done well,” Barham said. “But I do see, for a lot of people who are very specifically black, they’re not looking for handouts or anything, they just want the proverbial knee off the neck.”

“When you’re in a minority, you always think about race,” he continued. “Jamaica is a mostly black country. When I spend time there, everyone looks like me. In the U.S., it’s the reverse, and as you move up in corporate America, it’s even more of the reverse. It’s always there to think about.”

Barham’s dream and hope for the future is that his kids don’t have to deal with the kind of discrimination that he’s seen in his lifetime. “Changes need to happen in this generation. Will it change in my lifetime? I don’t know. I thought it would,” he said. “When I was a young kid, my dad was saying the same things. I said, “Oh, by the time I’m your age, that stuff will all be solved.” I was wrong. It isn’t.”

Starting a conversation

When Barham received inquiries on what people could do in their companies about racial justice, he thought it would be a good topic for the Capitalist Sage podcasts that he regularly hosts with Peachtree Corners Magazine publisher Rico Figliolini. So, they began a series of podcasts about diversity and race.

“It’s been a topic discussed nationally, and we said, ‘what about here? Is there anything going on locally?’” he said. They produced three episodes, with two to three guests on each. “We talked about racial and social justice in leadership and in the local community,” Barham said. “We had stay-at-home moms, elected officials, church leaders and faith leaders, just talking about what it means and how they’ve been reacting to what’s happening with Black Lives Matter. We asked: what can citizens can do individually? What can local leaders do? We just wanted to start a dialogue.”

Barham said that one of the things that’s interesting about the South is that racism is part of the history that people don’t talk about because they’re trying to be polite, yet “there’s this undercurrent of race in a lot of conversations.”

“It wasn’t too long ago in the South that some [schools] had a black prom and a white prom,” he said. “Friends are so segregated; they get together sometimes for sports, school and some social activities, but they go home to dinner and they go to church in very separate worlds. They don’t get a chance to really learn about each other, so misunderstandings can happen more easily.”

Barham shared a little game he plays. “Whenever anyone talks about race — black, white — it’s hard; it’s too charged. I change “black” to “short”. If I were to say: What if short people, anybody under 5’10”, are not able to get all of the same opportunities as everyone else? A lot of people would be REALLY upset.”

“If I was sitting at a party and people were talking about, “Oh, those short people…”, I might say, “Hey, time out! Half my friends are short.”

A note of hope

Barham said he sees a lot of people coming together to help advance social justice, including racial justice. “I think we should lift those people up. We should elect them to office,” he said.

And he sees a lot of things to be hopeful for. “When I look at the community here, I see more people of color starting businesses,” Barham reported. “In the last 10 deals that we’ve done, more than 50% of them had a person of color on one side of the deal or the other. Things are changing in society — and things can and will continue to get better.”

Diverse perspectives, the same conclusion

It’s easy to see why niche.com gives Peachtree Corners an A+ for diversity. Let’s move forward holding hands (figuratively, of course), leaving injustice behind and making the fabric of Peachtree Corners stronger and more beautiful than ever before.

“We must continue to go forward as one people, as brothers and sisters.” ~ Rep. John Lewis

Vitals

From the United States Census Bureau’s QuickFacts about Peachtree Corners, it’s easy to glean some of the latest statistics about the elusive 16.23 square miles that constitute the largest city in Gwinnett county. I say“elusive” as many citizens might have trouble envisioning our city’s borders. In our defense, it was incorporated just eight years ago, on July 1, 2012.

What makes our community a Top 10 best suburb, and one of the best places to live in the State of Georgia—besides quality education, low crime rate, desirable cost of living, employment, access to amenities and general livability? The great diversity in housing options, places to worship, the cultures represented here, the businesses and the amazing residents we share our community with, of course.

Population: 43,905

Median Household Income: $67,949

Poverty Rate: 9.9%

Employment Rate: 71.7%

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Business

City of Peachtree Corners to celebrate safety-conscious businesses

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The City of Peachtree Corners is preparing a list of all local businesses practicing the safety measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Those businesses taking steps to keep citizens healthy will be published on the city website, in the Shop and Dine app, and in the monthly business newsletter as part of the city’s “Stay Healthy” campaign.

The Stay Healthy campaign is getting creative in its approach to public service announcements related to Covid19. The city is working to promote staying healthy through the use of comic book superheroes and popular TV show characters. In the coming weeks, expect to see banners, signs, posters and billboards, as well as social media posts spreading the message to wash hands frequently, wear face coverings, and practice social distancing.

Take part in the campaign! If you operate a safe business, let Jennifer Howard from the city office know so it can be added to the list of safety-conscious businesses in the city. Let the community know what steps you are taking to keep your business, patrons, and employees healthy.

Source:

Jennifer Howard, Economic Development Manager- City of Peachtree Corners

Email all entries to jhoward@peachtreecornersga.gov

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Business

Peachtree Corners Assistant City Manager Chosen for 2021 Leadership Gwinnett Class

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Peachtree Corners Assistant City Manager, Brandon Branham is among 42 local leaders chosen for the 2021 Leadership Gwinnett Class. He will begin the nine month program in August.

Brandon Branham

Established in 1985, Leadership Gwinnett was created to ensure that the community’s most influential leaders are knowledgeable about issues pertaining to the county and region. The class will take an in-depth look at the many sectors of Gwinnett – infrastructure, economics, education, health and human services, justice and regional relations.

“We’re very proud that Mr. Branham was selected for this year’s class,” said Mayor Mike Mason. “Leadership Gwinnett has a great track record of success in leadership development. Those chosen for the class learn a tremendous amount about the many aspects of leadership as well as about our county and region. Perhaps one real benefit is the life-time relationships participants develop. This can only help our city as we face the challenges of the future.”

The program includes an opening retreat, seven learning days, monthly study groups, tours and hands-on experiences within the county along with a closing retreat. The class will study topics such as leadership in a world class community, infrastructure, economics, education, health & human services, and will participate in study groups, exclusive tours and hands-on experiences.

To ensure a well-rounded class, Leadership Gwinnett uses a selection process based on occupation, qualifications and a representation that reflects a cross section of the county.

“It is an honor to be selected to be a part of the Leadership Gwinnett class,” said Branham. “I am looking forward to the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the people and issues that will shape our county’s future and the chance to network with some of Gwinnett’s top leaders.”

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