When Small Business Contributes to Community

This post is specifically about the Lakewood neighborhood in Durham. However, I am sure there are great small business stories in neighborhoods across Durham. I usually save the prompt to contribute to the forums until the end of the post, but I would absolutely love to hear about owner-occupied commercial spaces across Durham. Please share any stories you have in the forum!

On the corner of Lakewood Avenue and Chapel Hill Rd, across from the Lakewood Shopping Center is a beloved local flower shop called Pine State Flowers. You may have even ordered flowers from here as they create arrangements and deliver. They also do weddings and events.

What has always caught my eye was the parcel of land they are on:

On that one parcel, there is the small Pine State Flowers building, two houses originally built as single-family homes, a beautiful brick commercial building, one garage/shed, and lots of open space. It’s all owned by Yoshi-San Properties LLC.

That’s not all. In early 2021, Yoshi-San Properties also purchased the office building at 2011 Chapel Hill Rd. Is this a big developer assembling parcels for a giant project?


This is owner-occupied, small business, commercial real estate at its finest. Yoshi-San Properties is an entity owned by David Oh, who has brought together LGBTQIA+ friendly wellness and healing practitioners under the Radical Healing collective. Their goal is to provide safer and more accessible healing for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and LGBTQIA+ folks and to become a true campus for healing and wellness for all people. This is incremental growth that, as a Lakewood resident, I am proud to have in my community.

David Oh, originally from Louisiana, was educated in clinical mental health counseling at Johns Hopkins and started Radical Healing with partners in 2013. David purchased the larger property in 2016 and continued to build the business.

I reached out to David because I loved the idea of a pro-social business that is participating in the built environment of a neighborhood. David agreed to chat with me about his experience.

The first few months after purchasing the property were intense. Not only did David have to worry about the growth and viability of the business, but he was immediately hit with the reality of owning commercial property. Two large heating units died within months of closing on the property. Not to mention the roof leaks. Every time it rained, he held his breath until finally he bit the bullet and re-roofed the brick commercial building.

Today, Radical Healing has 37 practitioners in its collective and also rents one of the houses to a company called Sahaja Space, a yoga, meditation, and movement center that serves all folks, inclusive of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ people. David runs the Radical Healing collective, sees individual clients and has the job of a landlord all at the same time. In doing so, he has created a special place in the heart of the Lakewood neighborhood. On 1.85 acres, this is Durham’s epicenter for healing, wellness, and mental health.

I have done a lot of thinking about Durham’s identity. More recently, I have focused more on identity on the neighborhood level. To me, Lakewood’s identity consists of places like The Scrap Exchange and hopefully the development of the ReUse Arts District that they have planned. It involves the history of the old Lakewood Amusement Park and the streetcar line that came out here. It definitely involves churros (so much so that I don’t even have to explain that further to most of you). It involves a diverse community including strong latinx representation as well as a black community with longstanding roots in the neighborhood. But, it also involves inclusive healing, wellness, and mental health.

The strange part for me is that until recently, this wellness epicenter was completely off of my radar.

There is a reason I didn’t notice the prominence of Radical Healing. From 2016 to 2019, David had his nose to the grindstone, building the business. He admitted that in those first few years, he didn’t have the capacity for much engagement with the broader Lakewood community. That said, he had plans to connect with nearby residents in 2020. Then COVID hit and those plans were derailed. As we slowly get past COVID (in fits and starts, but trending in the right direction), David hopes to restart his community programming efforts once again.

In urbanism, we sometimes talk about the “hardware” and “software” of a place. The hardware being the built environment and the software being the programming, rules, regulations, etc.

David has plans for both. While he continues to utilize the buildings as space for the many Radical Healing practitioners, he is currently clearing overgrown brush from parts of the property to create beautiful garden spaces adjacent to Lakewood’s commercial corridor. He has plans for reorganizing the uses in the buildings to create more of a public presence along Chapel Hill Rd (he is not ready to share specifics).

But David is also interested in the “software”. He has thought about using his spaces for events like markets, art markets, community events, etc. He has also approached other Lakewood businesses in an effort to collaborate on some of these efforts.

One small idea he mentioned in passing was potentially doing some sort of winter/holiday lighting setup. It may seem small, but little touches like string lights can go a long way to start to create a sense of place for a neighborhood center. 

I would have loved to chat with David more about Radical Healing the business, its mission, and its future. From primary care to massage and body work to mental health, and a ton more, Radical Healing has a robust array of offerings. It has also created a strong community amongst its practitioners and clients. However, we had such a great conversation about the organization’s place in the neighborhood, we ran out of time. I am excited that David is contributing to Lakewood’s identity in such a strong way and I can’t wait to see how bis business and his interaction with the community grows and changes over time.

With business sense, risk tolerance, a knack for building community, and an affinity for the neighborhood, David Oh represents the type of entrepreneur that neighborhoods across Durham need.

Once again, I would love to hear thoughts on both Radical Healing and other scrappy entrepreneurial efforts in other neighborhoods! Come discuss in the forums.

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