Mike Clark and the Mill Get Ready to Give Greensboro Another Facelift
The name Mike Clark has become synonymous with being a part of some of the best events in downtown Greensboro; and with his newest venture, his reputation may just become etched in stone.
In early October, Clark opened The Mill Entertainment Complex, located at 816 S. Elm St., a venue that will host an event center, a jazz venue and an outdoor entertainment space in downtown. This is a continued effort to bring something new and different to the area.
A Business Man
Jumping into new business ventures isn’t new to Clark. The 33-year-old has always been a dreamer and entrepreneur. You could call him a visionary. He’s never had a problem seeing the bigger picture of a situation.
“Even when I was in school, I was more of a hands-on learner. My mother calls it kinetic,” Clark explained, chuckling. “If you lose, you learn from it.”
Clark has lived in the Triad since he was 6 years old and graduated from Southwest High School in 2002.
It was in 2007 that he made a major life decision, at 23 years old, following a break-up with his girlfriend he went out for a night on the town with a few of his friends. It was then that the encountered a young man by the name of Jay White.
“I saw him and his entrepreneurial spirit and thought if he can do it, I can do it,” Clark said. “That was my entrepreneurial kickstart to jump out there.”
He started out at the bottom (passing out flyers) of the promotional end of the club business while working at Habitat for Humanity during the day. Eventually, after seeing that type of money that was coming in compared to what he was getting paid on a biweekly basis, he began thinking about how he could make the club business his full-time job.
He quit his job at Habitat for Humanity in 2007.
“I told my job why I was quitting and they laughed at me,” he said. “I’m the type of person that if you tell me no, I’m going to do it anyway, so that was the motivation that I needed to take that leap of faith.”
The first few years were rough, Clarks admits, and it wasn’t until five years in that he received his first consistent gig with Greene Street Club by building a good relationship with the manager and owner. A business that he now has ownership in.
“A lot of people didn’t see my worth early on,” Clark said. “This has been one of those you live, and you learn kind of experiences. There were times where I failed miserably, but I was okay with that because it was my failure. I’m not okay with taking a loss on somebody’s else’s watch.”
Clark began to look around the entertainment scene to see who was successful and how they were successful, building a team of people that complement and help him accomplish what he was looking for to enhance the Greensboro nightlife. Thus, began the Mogul Movement. Once Clark built a successful team, things began to take off.
“Different club owners would give me a shot, and I took it,” he said. “It worked out. They saw the potential in what we were trying to build and in me.”
Along the way, he built up three smaller businesses: Mighty Movers Moving Company, Clark’s Carpet Cleaning and King Cuts, following the death of his former barber and friend, Latif.
“I typically like low overhead businesses,” Clark said. “There’s not a lot of risk in them, so if there’s no clientele, I wouldn’t really be paying anything. I like to create those businesses so that there may be some type of return, even if it’s a slow return, or so that I can also provide opportunities for others.”
Fast forward 10 years later and Clark has taken on one of his biggest projects to date with The Mill Entertainment Center.
“Originally, we were only supposed to do a couple of events here, but after the owner got to know us, he asked if I was interested in the space and of course me being me I said yes,” he said. “I really sat down and thought about what the city was missing. Downtown is going in the artsy direction. You see a lot of walls being painted, but the only thing I see going up is a lot of craft beer places. I don’t really see any variation in the new places downtown so why not try to create that variation? People love different types of music, and being outside so why not try to create a venue to where people can enjoy those different things.”
The building was originally North State Milling Company and was built in 1910. Then it was the home of “Daily Bread Flour” and “Joy Brand Corn Meal.” Renovated in 1960, production was shut down, and the mill closed in 1985. Most recently Duck Head clothing company occupied the building along with various other tenants including a photographer.
Now the building will be broken down into three parts: Silo, The Mill and The Jazz Lounge.
Silo will be an event space. Complete with a view of the original silo from the mill, the airy space has a bar, and the floor to ceiling windows allow for plenty of natural lighting making it an option for weddings, events, after-work mixers, etc. The lounge seating and rustic yet contemporary features give it an upscale feel.
The Jazz Lounge offers more a mysterious and laid-back vibe. The venue will offer live jazz, wine, champagne and spirits bar, a whiskey room, a cigar bar and food. Most of the original features will remain the same throughout the room, including the sliding mill doors. Live jazz acts will be routed from New York and Durham, along with some local talent.
“The older side of Greensboro doesn’t really have anywhere to go,” Clark said. “It was about finding something for those who are a little older and want to have a chill vibe with your crew or your boo. A laid-back environment is what I’m trying to create here.”
Joe Shepard, Clark’s business partner for the past eight years, said that he’s excited about The Mill and the options that it will offer residents in the area.
“He’s bringing a safe, fun and comfortable environment for people who want to go out, have a good time and come back home,” Shepard said. “We have a responsibility to our community to make sure people have an option to spend their money within their own community.”
The outside entertainment space can host at least 2,000 people comfortable and will eventually get a pool. Clark is looking to use the space to host outdoor event and concerts in the future.
“It’s all about developing this side of downtown,” Clark said. “If we can be a staple in developing the south side of downtown then I’m excited to be one of the first pieces of that.”
Shepard said that he expects nothing less.
“I anticipate the same amount of success here as we’ve had at Greene Street.”
A Family Man and a Philanthropist
One aspect that Clark is extremely proud of has nothing to do with business. He is a proud husband to Dominique and father to Autumn, 11, and Michael Clark II, 8 months old.
“I’m very proud of that,” he said. “That’s where I get my motivation from.”
He takes that motivation and gives it to others.
“I try to coach people and help them believe in themselves and what they want to do,” Clark said. “I try to open up the lines of communication to where people feel comfortable asking me how to do this or how to do that because I didn’t really have that in the beginning.”
Clark said that he finds it important to give back to others because he didn’t have a lot handed to him.
“No one was really that motivational piece for me,” Clark said. “One thing about the American way is that you have to lead by example and people follow. That’s the American culture. So not only do I do it for the greater good of things but to push other people to do it as well. I actually enjoy it. I enjoy putting a smile on people’s faces. Even with the nightlife thing. It’s about that more than the success of it. I enjoy giving back. I feel like your blessings come as much as you give so I try to give as much as I can without it being detrimental to myself. I try to put the energy out there and let it come back.”
Throughout the year you can find him heading up a school drive, collecting canned food for a pantry or collecting toys and candy for kids. For the Fourth of July, he held a free cookout at his barbershop business, had a DJ come out and gave out free food until it was gone. In August, he held a Back-to-School Drive and offered free haircuts and bookbags full of school supplies.
His biggest effort in giving back was done this spring as he pulled off a city-wide Easter Egg Hunt at LeBauer Park that hosted 2,500 kids. After finding out what Clark was trying to do, the park reached out to him. The event was free and open to the public.
There were bounce houses, 20 games stations, pony rides, the fountains were running, 10,000 eggs and free water and refreshments. It’s something that Clark said he’d like to make an annual event.
“I put the idea out there it just took off,” he said. “Since I was coming out of pocket, outside of a few people who had sponsored some of the games, I had to cut off the registration, but it was an amazing day. I got really excited once I saw the city residents and the city of Greensboro appreciated. It was cool to see all different types of cultures out there.”
When it comes to making Greensboro better, it’s something that Clark is always thinking about on some level. It doesn’t matter if it has something to do with giving back, dealing with children or another business opportunity.
“My mind is constantly working on what to do next. I don’t only play in the city, but I also give back in the city as well,” he said. “I want to continue embracing the businessman that I’ve become and try to continue recreating Greensboro to the best of my ability.”
Chanel Davis, a journalism graduate from N.C.A&T SU, is a freelance journalist based in High Point who has worked in the industry for the past five years.
The Mill Entertainment Complex hosts “the happiest hour,” and after-work social event every Friday at the Silo from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. with drink and food specials. Entry is free and is for those who are 21 years old and up. The Mill will host a Winter Ball on Dec. 2 and plan to host a New Years Eve party and is now available for special event booking. For more information, visit the Facebook page @themillentertainmentcomplex or call 336-617-4076.