2008-01-04 / Community

Far Rockaway Native Opens 'Hip-Hop Soda Shop'

By Nicholas Briano

"Hip-Hop Soda Shop", founded by Far Rockaway native, Jamar McNeil, opened its doors on December 18 in Tampa, Florida after winning a business contest for the concept several years ago while attending college. "Hip-Hop Soda Shop", founded by Far Rockaway native, Jamar McNeil, opened its doors on December 18 in Tampa, Florida after winning a business contest for the concept several years ago while attending college. Far Rockaway native, Jamar McNeil was attending The University of Maryland when a concept, creative vision, and contest changed his life forever.

McNeil's idea was simple, yet innovative. It was to create a restaurant that was influenced by the prototypical fifties soda shop mixed with the hip-hop and video gaming cultures of today.

After several years of hard work and dedication, McNeil and his partners have opened up their first Hip-Hop Soda Shop in Tampa, Florida on December 18, in a widely publicized grand opening that featured over 2,700 people including notables such as hip-hop legend, Doug E. Fresh, and rapper, Busta Rhymes.

The core of Hip Hop Soda Shop's concept design is an 11,000 square foot area that includes a health food menu, large gaming area with more than 35 HDTV's, internet connected Xbox 360s, and even a recording studio. It combines and uniquely blends two of the most iconic aspects of pop-culture today; hip-hop and online gaming.

In 2003 while attending college, McNeil, now 28, entered a business concept competition held at George Washington University, titled "Ideas Happen Live." It was sponsored by Bank of America and Visa that gave the winner a cash prize of $2,500 for their business pitch. McNeil and his partner, Brian Peters, a Bronx native, presented their idea and won in a landslide. Instead of taking the money and spending it foolishly, McNeil decided to use the money wisely and make the vision come true.

The partners however knew that things wouldn't take off easily, so they decided that the first thing to do was to incorporate into a company that would catapult their launch into the restaurant business. They founded the company "Halls of Hip-Hop", formerly known as H3 Enterprises and went public with the company, dubbing the slogan "Hip-Hop Meets Wall Street." They made history by becoming the first hip-hop enterprise in the world to be publicly traded on the stock market. "We went public for a couple of reasons," Mc Neil said. "One of the main benefits of going public is that it enabled us to receive money from investors for the project."

Once they had incorporated the parent company of "Hip Hop Soda Shop," McNeil and Peters had to find a way to establish, build, and maintain their corporation. They needed a business plan and direction.

"After incorporating we started going to our various resources for help," McNeil said. "We needed to know how we can get this company started."

Things began to happen when McNeil and Peters reached out to Dr. Ben Chavis and pitched him the idea this past summer.

"The concept that occurred in 2005 had a real chance when Dr. Ben decided to come on board," McNeil said. "He loved it because it showed a positive side of hip-hop."from page 2

McNeil says that talking with Dr. Chavis, former president of the NAACP, was one of the best things they could have done because it changed the entire outlook of the project. As a result, McNeil felt it was in the best interest of H3 enterprises to name Chavis their acting CEO in June of 2007. Chavis immediately brought a creative business plan to the table and the company began to take shape.

The end result was worth the investment and time because H3 enterprises, founded by Far Rockaway's own, opened their first Hip-Hop Soda shop in Tampa, Florida and plans on franchising and opening up several more locations throughout Florida in the next few years.

There is even early interest for franchise opportunities outside of Florida due to the incredible model of success and interest that the Tampa location has generated.

McNeil says H3 Enterprises, however, wants to be more than just a business. They want to be role models for today's youth and show them what can happen with a little ambition and ingenuity. H3 Enterprises' goal is to provide a positive side to hip-hop culture and to provide community growth in the areas surrounding their restaurants.

"Our goal is provide the youth with empowerment through investment," McNeil said. "It is a positive environment that can be embraced by the entire community."

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