Revitalizing East Durham: Vibrant Business Scene Breathes New Life into the Community

Monday, March 11, 2024

By Sydney Sasser

**This story is part of series on the economic development of East Durham**

In East Durham, the local business scene is thriving, thanks to a unique community atmosphere that encourages growth and success. 

Along Angier Avenue, there are a variety of businesses. Little Homestead Farm is one of these businesses. Owner Gina-Marie D’Meza, a resident of East Durham since 2006, started making her own soaps, lotions and body butters after learning about all of the harmful chemicals that can be found in these products. 

She explained how excited she is to be a part of the growth taking place in East Durham as a resident of the community for 18 years and how special Durham is for small business owners. 

“The community in Durham really goes hard for small businesses, people want to support and share your business,” D’Meza said.

She also expressed sentiments of wanting to see more businesses come to East Durham and continue growth, but also wanting the new growth to be affordable for everyone. Businesses in East Durham, however, have been overwhelmingly supportive in fostering this new growth — sharing customers and recommending local businesses to shoppers.

The Studio, a creative tattoo studio, is also located on Angier Avenue. Samantha Castrovinci, the owner, opened her doors in 2017 and later expanded the space of her business in 2021. She wanted to create a community for other artists that she felt didn’t exist when she was coming up in the industry. 

“East Durham feels like a place for underdogs, and I’ve always felt like an underdog,” Castrovinci said.

Ideal’s Sandwich and Grocery opened their doors on Angier Avenue in 2021. Specializing in northeastern sandwiches, they have seen immense success. Owners Ian and Paul met in culinary school and both found themselves in North Carolina where they decided to open their own sandwich shop. They both expressed sentiments of feeling supported from not just the community but other business owners. Their business’s aim is to adapt to community needs. 

“It’s more of how we can fit into the community rather than they adapt to us,” Paul said.

Joe’s Diner is another flourishing business in East Durham. Having opened in 2006, owner Joseph Bushfan wanted to bring back life to the community, so he came up with the concept of bringing a hot dog restaurant to the area. After achieving success in the food industry, he has expanded  to owning a commissary lot for food trucks to operate.

Joe and other business owners all explained how they would like to see more support and investment from the city to help fix up East Durham in regard to sweeping, trash and other aesthetic needs.

East Durham has become a hub for many black owned businesses to flourish. Along the corridor and Driver Street businesses such as Congress Social Bar and Rofhiwa Book Cafe, both owned by Beverley Makhubele, who also lives in the community. Makhubele explained that the development of the area has helped businesses increase foot traffic to their businesses which wasn’t always the case. She also expressed how unique East Durham is that many of black owned businesses are beside each other on the corridor and thriving. 

“Continuing to invest in young black entrepreneurs and young black ideas in East Durham is a good thing for those people and this corridor because it keeps it exciting and fresh,” said Makhubele.

Other businesses such as Russell’s Pharmacy & Shoppe, Durham Green Flea Market, Mike D’s BBQ, Bull City Sweet Shoppe, Sofia’s Pizza, Proximity Brewing Company and others have been thriving and attracting more development in East Durham.

Edited by: Cade McConnell