WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — “This building has really good bones and I think it’s really worth saving,” says Algenon Cash as he walks through his latest real estate venture.
Although the building is not a classic piece of architecture – it has corrugated metal walls and is just a series of huge, empty rooms – it oozes with history.
“Originally, it was an RJR tobacco warehouse that was developed in the 1930s,” Algenon says.
Soon, he adds, it will be a great jump start to the economy on the east side of Winston-Salem when he and a partner can repurpose it as a shared-work space.
“With the explosion of e-commerce sales and more and more people that are starting their own digital business and they’re working out of their garage at some point, their business grows up and they need to be an actual, external space. But a lot of these light industrial companies aren’t big enough to where they need 10,000 or 20,000 square feet – they need 2,000 to 5,000 square feet and flexible leasing terms,” he says.
This return, of sorts, to Algenon’s professional roots is one of the legacies of the pandemic. Before Covid-19 blew up the national economy, Algenon was in the early years of getting a lifelong dream up and running: Zesto Burgers and Ice Cream, a restaurant on Winston-Salem’s east side and modeled after one of his fondest childhood memories.
But Zesto is closed for the foreseeable future and this year Algenon turned his attention to what’s called, “Ghost Kitchens,” where an entrepreneur develops a restaurant menu but never builds a dining room – the food is available only via delivery, usually through the third-party apps that have become so popular over the last few years, things like Door Dash, Grub Hub or Uber Eats.
The idea Algenon developed was called Calabash Point.
“Actually launched Calabash over the summer and had to shut it down within three weeks because we just couldn’t find anyone to come work and cook the menu,” he says.
But a ghost restaurant loss isn’t like a typical restaurant, since there is a much lower financial investment, plus, “Even though they’re shut down, what’s so great about a ghost kitchen is I can literally walk out of here and turn it back on at any time.”
Meanwhile, Algenon continues to be optimistic about the future.
“I can say that that has been 2021 for me,” he says. “I think I learned so much in 2020 that I put into use in 2021.”
For Algenon, it’s a matter of perspective. “I like to use the analogy of rain: when the rain comes, it’s inconvenient but it also reveals what is underneath,” he says.
See more of Algenon’s story in this edition of our Project 2021.