Young Entrepreneur Pursues His Dream

Sam P.K. Collins | 6/19/2013, noon
Starting a small business is no small feat, nor should it be taken lightly, especially for minority business owners.
Avery Leake, owner of Avery's Bar & Lounge on H Street in Northeast. Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah

Starting a small business is no small feat, nor should it be taken lightly, especially for minority business owners. The lack of capital and banks’ reluctance to lend large amounts to up-and-coming businesses often makes the journey more difficult.

However, one intrepid, young entrepreneur jumped in feet first and has managed to attract a healthy and affluent clientele – with the help of some friends. Avery’s Bar and Lounge officially opened its doors along the now-bustling H Street corridor in Northeast in February. The bar caters to young, urban professionals.

“Avery’s is an environment that appeals to a diverse array of people,” said owner, Avery Leake, 28.

“While you can show off your money by buying bottles here, this is more of a place to socialize.”

On any given night, Avery’s offers its guests a wide variety of locally distilled liquors. The music that blares from the state-of-the-art speakers appeals to rock lovers and hip-hop aficionados alike. Paintings by local artists hang on the walls of the lounge and Avery’s “Wall of Fame” features local community leaders. Among them: William Jackson, 28, director of the Fellaz Youth Foundation, a non-profit based in Largo, Md., that focuses on black male youth development, which Leake himself played a role in establishing. Later this summer, Avery’s will provide a rooftop setting where customers will have a panoramic view of the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol, while they enjoy a cool drink.

“This establishment represents me and what I came into this business with,” said Leake. “I knew I wanted to do something great but I didn’t have the money to do it. I embraced my struggle and turned it in my favor,” said Leake, who lives in Bowie, Md.

The establishment of Avery’s Bar and Lounge is a homecoming of sorts for Leake whose great-grandparents owned a restaurant on H Street in the early 20th century. When he finally decided to start his own business, he already had examples from which he could draw including relatives who happened to be entrepreneurs in their own right.

“My uncles vended and hosted parties and I had a cousin who owned a clothing line,” he said. “I went to business conferences in Atlanta as an intern [on their behalf] – with no college [education]. I saw what black business looked like so the concept wasn’t far-fetched to me.”

He almost abandoned his dream.

After years as a U.S. Capitol police officer, Leake started a vacation home rental company in 2007. However, it quickly folded with the departure of a major investor and the loss of property during the nation’s housing crisis in 2008. In the years that followed, he continued to work at the U.S. Capitol and turned his sights on becoming a photographer. It wasn’t until the Fellaz Youth Foundation hosted a number of social events under its umbrella organization, Fellaz Circle of Success that Leake seriously considered opening his own bar.

“At that time, I had given up on being a business owner,” Leake said. “But I learned that you can’t keep worrying about what happened in the past. I thought I would rather take a chance on something that I loved than wait for my luck to change.”