Meet Chris Delprince: The path of a self-made business man
Karibu News: Thank you DelPrince for this opportunity. Would you like to tell us, who is DelPrince?
DelPrince: I grew up in the West Side, it was all Italian. T went to 77 on Normal Street, went to Lafayette for high school, dropped out of high school and lived the life of these kids on the street. It was 1979. So, I had a mixed up childhood and he… you know, little by little I thought about being an entrepreneur. So, I started to sell stuff out of the trunk of my car. I grew on Grant St. and “Golden Burma” that was used to be pool hall where all of us Italians used to hang, that was like a club. Across the street was mu store and hung out of the pool with my boys. So finally I told the boys I want to go into business and not fooling around with them.
What year was that?
In 1985. I opened my first store called “Everything Grant Street” so I sold everything, jewelries, novelties, electronics, statues, you know, whatever.
Where did you get the resources?
By taking a dollar and turning it into two.
Getting the dollar from where?
And by taking the next two dollars and turning them into four.
But, where did you get the first dollar?
Humm I probably had a couple hundred dollars.
So you started from your own means
Prior to that what were you doing?
I was working for a company… you see those guys with a bag selling calculator and books, stuff like that, I was doing that. But prior to that I was a caterer of meat on Rhode Island. There was a very famous Italian market there. From there, we fell into our niche with urban clothing. And right at the same time Hip pop started, I saw it and jumped on the wave, I pioneered it and brought it to Western New York. So, my store “Everything Grant Street” turned into “Life Style Street Care” with clothing.
From there I started to expand to Main Place Mall, Bailey and Kensington, Boulevard Mall, Broadway Street; I opened up store in Rochester and Pennsylvania, and my main office was on Main and Amherst St., it was called “DelPrince Fashion?
Which one of these businesses are still operational?
Most of them are still going. You can see one on West Ferry, it is called Urban Touch Fashion.
Are there any that you sold?
Yeah, I sold all of them.
I got them at the right time and I sold them at the right time. When profitability begin to go down, yes you have to.
Any stage where you could say this a milestone?
I said to myself I want to do a million dollars in business and I did it, then I said I want to do two and I did it, and then I said three I kept going, and I was about a ten-million dollar business for my stores.
What was your strategy?
Finding my niche. Once I found it and I went for it. I surrounded myself with the right people who helped me make the right decisions. As a consultant, I also help other businesses grow.
You know well West Side. In 2000-2001, West Side was not as vibrant as it is now, what was the problem?
I saw the changes, West Side was a beautiful place when I lived here, it was all Italian, and you had very close Italian home owners, you didn’t have renters, and every family looked after very family. Then the area started to change, more Hispanics and more Africans were moving in and more Italian were moving out, going to places like North Buffalo and Tonawanda. There was a movement there where now you have people who were not homeowners, they were home renters, and couldn’t care about properties and all that and everything started going a kind of downhill. What I like is that I see the change again in the West Side. The immigrants are coming in and they are making it better over there. My friend Nick Bonifacio who was a councilmen of the West Side, he told me that when he was there, there were 300 vacant houses, now there is not. This is just what Buffalo has always been about, it has always been a city of immigrants. This is just a circle going around through different immigrants. Back then, it was the Italians, Polish, the Irish, the Germans… it is a momentum. When it there, it keeps going.
What is your final advice now that Buffalo is going to a kind of economic rebirth?
This a prime opportunity for businesses to come in on the ground floor and tart something because it is building up right now.