Alphonzo Cross is the owner of Parlor Cocktail Den on Peters street. His big ideas and bold moves have earned him a name in Castleberry Hill as a curator of excellence and execution. We spoke to him about the ups and down of entrepreneurship and what it means to shop black.
When did your entrepreneur journey start?
My entrepreneur journey started when I was 14 years old. We had this fancy lawnmower and I would go to the neighbors and ask to cut their lawn. In college I approached the athletic department to shoot videos that I turned into these mini tv segments. I’ve been a personal stylist and done some other things too. In 2011 I started The Boxcar Grocer with my sister. It was a healthy grocery store looking to change the convenience store model. We opened it right here on our property in Castleberry Hill. It was my first step into a brick and mortar space that really set things in motion for me.
Tell me a little bit about Parlor and why you started it?
In 2016 I formalized Quintessential. We are a brand development company that concepts brands, and executes integrated boutique business units in emerging markets focused on hospitality, retail, and health. We fully own all of our brands and ideas and we brought our first brand, Parlor (Cocktail Den), to market in 2018. We wanted to bring the market something that spoke to an upperly mobile, middle class, black demographic. I wanted to build something different in the hospitality space with food and beverage. It was something I’d been wanting to do for a while and it was missing in the community. A place with great interior design, great food and beverage, and excellent service all apexing together for a great experience.
What has been your biggest accomplishment?
Probably that I’m still alive. I’m proud of being able to accomplish anything I set my mind to and have an impact. I’m proud of Parlor making it through this pandemic. You hear things like “black people don’t eat healthy” and “you can’t build nice things for people.” We dismissed all of those things and were able to create something to defy those myths. I’m proud of still being here. I’m proud of being able to have vision and things people can’t see and be able to execute it. I move quickly. I try to be more strategic. I do take the time to go through all the steps but there’s no analysis paralysis on my end.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is me. I’m wildly imperfect. Trying to figure all this out. My bigger challenges are time management. Being impatient. Trying to bite more than I can chew. Getting through my own stuff. My biggest challenge has always been me.
Do you have a personal mantra?
I love this quote by Winston Churchill: “Never never never give up.” That saying really connects with me. Also, there was a character in Jurassic park. The old man had a saying that ‘Creation is your act of will.” If you really want something, you’ll move heaven and earth to move something and make it happen. I live by that.
What advice would you give someone starting a new business?
I would tell them to focus on what it is you enjoy as opposed to doing things just to make money. Do something you’re passionate about. Let that be your focus. Money always changes. You either have it or you don’t or it moves and switches. Money is very ethereal. Passion is clear. The problem is if you focus on the money side, and your business has a bad fiscal year, you’re more likely to give up. If you focus on what you love that will transcend beyond the bad days.
What are you doing when you’re not working? What are your favorite things to do?
I don’t get a lot of days off honestly. But when I do, I either play tennis, read, or go to the movies.
For you, what does it mean for people to spend with black businesses?
I think it has value. To be honest with you black wall street is hard. It’s hard because it requires effort and it can be hard to find black owned businesses that have their shit together. The ones you try to support are either overpriced because they don’t know. Or their location is horrible. Or the service is bad but their product is good. Compromise is what it means to me. And to potentially overextend oneself to drive an hour to find something. It ain’t easy. But there is value and I think the more of us that have access to resources and business acumen, the better it will get. I think this black economics thing is for us to give back to our community and shore up the holes that you find when a race of people is enslaved and 400 years later we’re trying to figure it out.
Check out Parlor (Cocktail Den) on Peter street to get this excellent black experience Alphonzo and his team have curated.