This is part of our ongoing Business Spotlight series, which interviews local Columbia Heights Main Street business owners.
Today’s post features Sheila Reid—a longtime local resident and owner of Avanti Real Estate Services (3421 14th St NW). The company has provided excellent real estate services to Washington, DC for over 25 years.
Tell us a little bit about your business.
Avanti was founded in 1991. My now deceased husband, Nik and I, were a Mom and Pop business dedicated to assisting our community to be able to purchase houses to allow them the opportunity to create a basis by which they could accumulate equity for themselves as well as pass the property on to their heirs—providing them with a wealth building vehicle.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I have been an activist since I first marched with Dr. King in 1963 and have dedicated my life to adhere to his works. I have worked in some type of capacity that was geared to making a difference in the lives of others practically all my life.
I have been working in this industry for more than 30 years, and am very involved both nationally and locally on issues related to affordable housing and urban development. I am the past Chairperson for the District of Columbia Board of Zoning Adjustment and the Foreign Missions Board of Zoning Adjustment. Currently, I serve as President of the Columbia Heights Businesses Association.
What is unique about your business?
I am an African American who owns a “Mom” business (now that Pop is gone). My focus is attempting to provide a vehicle by which predominately African Americans and Hispanics are able to overcome the gentrification that has plagued our community and caused many of us to be displaced. The City Government has been remiss in developing programs to adequately enable people of color to be able to purchase in the City due to escalating housing prices.
How can the community support you right now?
Approximately 10 years ago, we were selling houses in Columbia Heights for $250,000 to $300,000. However, once the DCUSA project was completed, housing prices started to escalate with houses now selling for around $1,000,000—being totally unaffordable for most people of color.
Due to gentrification, most of our client base can no longer afford to live in Columbia Heights (as well as many parts of D.C.). The gentrifiers who are purchasing typically use out of state Realtors. Therefore, Avanti loses all of that business.
My community can help Avanti Real Estate Services by utilizing our company, a neighborhood business, for their real estate purchases, home sales, renting, leasing, and property management services.
If you could tell all of the residents in the Columbia Heights Main Street area one thing, what would it be?
For the new residents, try to attempt to be about community. Attempt to learn about where you live—the people, the culture, and the traditions of those who were already residents of the community.
Since many people come from Maryland, Virginia, or other parts of the country, try to share something about where you come from (who you are, recipes or culture or traditions that we may not know about).
Please, please, please just try to be more friendly and acknowledge the neighbors or those you live among. Then long time residents won’t have negative feelings about you moving into the community while they are seeing many of their friends and neighbors being displaced and having to move out of the homes they have loved for many years.
Often when people hear the term ‘Main Street’, they think about business corridors. But many people do not think about the stress and loneliness that many business owners experience while navigating the hurdles of entrepreneurship and running a business—especially during an unprecedented pandemic. Main Street programs all over the country work to make sure that business owners have an advocate and support system so that your favorite local coffee shop or tailor can keep their doors open. Help us continue doing our work by chipping in $10, $100, $1,000 by visiting districtbridges.org/donate.