C & R Housing—which won the Black-Owned Business of the Year in 2017— has been making drafty old homes in Buffalo, NY more weather-tight and energy efficient for over 40 years.
Headquartered out of the 93,000 SF former Iroquois brewery complex on Buffalo’s economically distressed east side, the company has hired seven new employees in the last three months to conduct residential energy audits and energy efficient improvements in houses across the city. They expect to weatherize more than 100 houses this year.
While its core business is growing, C&R’s founder, Jabril Shareef has been looking toward turning the unused bulk of his warehouse and manufacturing space into a home for local small and micro businesses which make, assemble, refurbish and otherwise add value to the items in which they specialize. “100 years ago this building was home to making beer,” he explained on a recent walk through the first floor, high-ceilinged warehouse bays. “Whether it’s clean and green technologies related to the kind of work we do with small buildings, or any number of products…we’re convinced there are a number of innovative, entrepreneurial and hardworking people who need space to make things. What would it look like if that hive of activity could be buzzing right here?” Jabril asked.
To start to make small development –of a cottage industry and small business manufacturing type –count, C & R took their years of hopes and ideas and methodically put them into an agile Working Plan. “All of a sudden, after literally years of conversations and ideas, we were able to see how it all related, where there were gaps and where we needed to focus first,” C&R co-owner and Jabril’s wife, Ellen Shareef said. “We’re busy enough with our core business. Having both the big picture of where our phased reuse of the building is going, and the concrete weekly tasks needed to get there, should help us efficiently allocate the needed time needed to succeed at both. We’re excited.”
One of the first steps identified was to talk with people who’ve been successful at renovating old buildings in Buffalo. With over 40 Buffalo area buildings under her redevelopment belt, Bernice Radle, CEO of the woman-owned and predominantly female-staffed development company, BuffaLove Development, was a natural. As Ellen took Bernice around the facility, the two further brainstormed about what kinds of businesses would want such “maker” space.
Ellen factored those ideas into her Working Plan and her team continues to slice off the most important tasks every cycle and delivers them as done. In this way, Jabril and Ellen’s vision for their mammoth brick building’s renaissance is being systematically realized in two-week increments.
She said “Jabril and I have been looking for redevelopment opportunities for years while we were consumed with growing our core business. The Working Plan approach helped us get our ideas in one place, drew on staff ideas and energy, and categorized and prioritized everything. What counts for us is being able to allocate specific staff time beyond our core operations and slice off increments of the most important work to be done, knowing we’re being as efficient and focused with that time as we can be.”