Business incubator, café opens on First Street

Suzanne Smith wants to help build the small business backbone of Brookhaven.

The Lincoln County native hopes to do that by educating those from her hometown on how to put their dreams into action, while providing a professional space for them to grow.

With more than 30 years of experience in business administration, Smith’s expectations for First Street Business Center and the adjoining First Street Café are high.

The business incubator and the café have been open for about a week. Smith held a soft opening Wednesday. She’s planning a grand opening Jan. 11.

The concept for the First Street Business Center and its adjoining café is a culmination of the multitude of experiences Smith has had in her career.

Smith lived in Florida for three decades, working in office administration for many years. She worked for the Florida Nursing Association. “Office administration was my full-time position that I’ve always gravitated back to. On the side, I would have something like a café or concession services.”

Smith opened her first sandwich shop 21 years ago in Florida.

When she returned to Brookhaven 10 years ago, she worked for DG Foods in Gallman and ran a barbeque restaurant in the city.

“I’ve always loved to cook,” she said of the inspiration behind adding a café to her business center. “When I first moved back, (I attended) my class high school reunion. (Ward 6 Alderman) David Phillips gave us a tour of the downtown area. I can remember him saying at the luncheon, ‘Y’all really need to think about coming back to Brookhaven and investing in the city when you retire.’”

Phillips’ statement stuck with Smith, posing the question — what did she want to invest in? What does Brookhaven need?

“(I determined) what it doesn’t have is a support center for people who are trying to open their own business,” she said. “So I say, why not have a center where people can rent an office and utilize my knowledge and those around them to start their own business.”

Armed with her love of cooking and need to educate those in business concepts, Smith was ready to launch her enterprise.

First Street Business Center offers a professional atmosphere that can accommodate a wide range of business needs.

“We have four offices for rent for a nominal fee,” Smith said. “They can be rented by the hour, half a day, a day, a week or monthly— whatever the need may be.”

The offices are themed to fit any type of business’ need. One feels similar to an attorney’s office, one is decorated in a 1940s theme, the third has a more modern feel and the fourth has feminine touches.

“Maybe there is a sales person in town who wants to meet with a client, but doesn’t want to meet at a hotel or a restaurant,” Smith said. “They want a private place. They can call, come in. We put them in an office.”

The center also provides business owners with a conference room, a lounge and reception area, and printer, mail and fax services.

“All of the office supplies will come with the office rental package,” Smith said.

In addition to the individual offices, the center features free space, which is open to anyone, she said. Smith said no fee will be charged for those who want to use the desks and sitting area in the space. Wi-Fi will also be free to those using the space. A small fee will be charged for printing in the free space.

Smith said she designed the business incubator to be utilized by different types of businesses. For those who just want guidance, Smith will be on site throughout the day to offer consultations.

“They can come in and make an appointment,” she said. “We will go over with them what their needs are and what they’re looking for. We’ll make suggestions, if we can help them in anyway or if I need to refer them to different people with expertise in a certain field. I want to spread that around to where we’re all helping each other. You would call it networking or co-working.”

One of the reasons why Smith decided to give her venture a go is due to the economy. 

“I believe in our economy right now that small business owners are going to be very important for the downtown Brookhaven area,” she said. “It’s become (apparent) that people are looking for that gratification that comes from owning a business, employing people and staking your claim in your hometown — being here and helping people.”

Smith’s First Street Café, which is located inside the business center, is open to everyone. “I wanted to provide those downtown with a place to grab a quick snack,” she said. “We have coffee, quick breakfast items, cold cut sandwiches, chips and much more.

The business center and café are open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information regarding a new business start up or about the café, contact Smith at 601-748-4970.