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BONHAM SEEKS A NEW START

by Daniel Schere

daniel@yesweekly.com

For more than six decades, Jimmie Bonham’s family has been in the barber business. In that time he has grown up in Winston-Salem, attended practically every university in the area, run for public office and taken over the family business.

He has also seen changes come to the east side of the city, beginning with the introduction of urban renewal programs. Their shop was originally located on Fifth Street but relocated to 1529 East 14th Street in the early 1960s. He assumed ownership in 1980 and in 1994 was forced to relocate again due to rezoning issues.

Bonham said the original plan was to zone the north side of 14th Street for residential use and the south side for commercial use. Up until that point, the north side had been zoned for a mix of commercial and residential development.

In preparation for the city razing his property as part of the redevelopment plan, he opted to relocate across the street to the corner of East 14 th Street and North Jackson Avenue.

“We saw on the plan for the city that this whole side of this street was going to be zoned commercial,” Bonham said. “So we didn’t want to go out of business, number one. We wanted to stay in the community, number two, and we wanted to stay within this areas number three.”

He said he filed a claim for relocation and was given $897 by the city for moving and storage, but nothing for the relocation itself. Tenants normally have 18 months to file a claim with the city for relocation before it closes.

“When you look at the letter that’s in that literature that they’re talking about, it says you have 18 months to initiate or file a claim,” he said. “It doesn’t say that the claim closes. It doesn’t say really how the claim is to be processed. It just says to file a claim. There’s a difference between filing a claim, servicing a claim, and closing a claim.”

But Community and Business Development Director Ritchie Brooks, who was there at the time, said filing a claim for relocation and making a request for moving assistance, are separate processes. Brooks said Bonham never filed a claim for relocation.

“He had been notified that he had to contact staff at that time and we never heard from him,” Brooks said.

Documents of communication between Bonham and Rae Jessup, who was the Community Service Advisor at the time show that the estimated cost of acquisition of 1515 East Fourteenth Street was $25,000 along with $25,000 for repairs and a $10,000 reestablishment fee.

In addition, Brooks said there were at least two occasions on which Bonham was supposed to meet with city staff at the property and did not show up. A letter dated October 21, 1994 to Bonham from Jessup reads as follows:

“Mr. Carter informed me today that no one was at the site and he has gone there on several occasions since and have found no one there. I have also been checking each day to see if the renovation work has begun, my most recent check was this morning (10-21- 94) and there is no sign of any work being done. I am requesting that you inform me of your intentions on this project as soon as possible.”

Bonham said this was not the case and that he met with Jessup at the site once before determining that there were too many steps, which he thought would pose a problem for customers with disabilities.

He also said he was told by city officials when he went before the planning board that he only needed to file one claim in order to relocate.

“My understanding is it was all part of the same process,” Bonham said.

Joycelyn Johnson, who was on the city council at the time, said the location would not fit in with the East Winston #5 redevelopment project.

“That whole side of the street was zoned residential,” Johnson said while adding that at that time, there were a number of businesses that were starting to relocate from East 14th. Johnson said she has not had any contact from Bonham since then.

Eventually his plan was voted down by the council, and for the last 20 years Bonham and his mother Fannie have been operating their business out of their home at 1617 East 14 th Street. He said business has been decent, but their ability to grow and reach deeper into the community has been limited.

“When you’re in a commercial setting, it affords you to do more,” he said. “Your signage can be bigger, you can hire more people, you can entertain more people.”

Bonham said he has found business owners who are willing to lease him space at Patterson and East 14 th Street and Patterson Avenue, 25 th and Liberty Streets, and one spot on Liberty Street near KFC. He still feels the city owes him compensation, which is why he contacted city officials in April.

Mrs. Bonham said the changes she has seen occur in the neighborhood since the redevelopment have been “awful” and have impacted their lives.

“We had good business on this side of the street, and they came in,” she said. “We didn’t have a warning of what they were doing.”

Bonham said the neighborhood thrived under the mixed-use plan.

“When you have that type of use in a community, it means the business serves the community that’s contiguous to it,” he said.

“The business that is here is no longer here . So therefore the people here have to go outside the community to buy goods or to get services.”

Bonham said so far he does not think city officials have been receptive to his desire to relocate. He feels the city ought to honor the commitment it made to him 20 years ago and said he is not trying to give the city a “black eye,” but wants an amicable resolution.

“The question is, if we are not entitled to our money, where did it go? And what did they use it for?” he said. “If you deposit your money into an account, and you decided 20 years later that you wanted to get your money out of the bank, it should be there.” !

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