Investor, Jesse Gerstl – I’ve Seen the Super Man Cape He Wears

May Gorham Building on the corner of Tarboro and Washington St. A Jesse Gerstl project

I often leave comments on the Concerned Citizens Facebook Page. Like all of us, the page has its good days and bad. Some comments have more clarity than others. I have no trouble making room for diverse opinions as long as they are well stated, no swearing or name-calling. I will admit that my reaction can vary if that line is crossed in this public forum. You could find me talking to myself, saying, “Give me a break!” or “What???” or in plain speak — “Man, you gotta get a life.”

I have an on-going struggle with what it means to be complicit. I’ll read something, weigh its merits, consider my past experience with the writer, and then decide if saying nothing makes me complicit in the matter.  Sometimes it is easy, Stepheny, let it go.  When I determine, this cannot stand, I write.

“What about the May Graham buildings or the Carlton House, or any other structures Jesse Gerstl and gang owns. It was great at first thinking he was going to fix something which turned into 2 years of the buildings getting “worser” as you call it. Jesse  Gerstl was allowed to buy many of these properties knowing he had no money or intention to fix any of it up. The only thing we got out of the hoarding of money in our downtown was a coffee house; had it not been for the owner of the coffee house we wouldn’t have that.”

In this instance, I know, admire and applaud, Jesse Gerstl.  This post is written in appreciation of him and is also my reply to the Concerned Citizen who was good enough to weigh in with the above comment. This blog post is neither written in anger nor denying others their opinions. I, however, have personal knowledge that Jesse wears a Superman’s cloak hidden under a tee shirt, part of his regular attire.

May Gorham Building is an up-coming        Jesse Gerstl project.

Larema Coffee Shop is located on the opposite corner in the Five Points area. A success story of what the revitalization of our historic downtown district will look like. A building Jesse bought and renovated with his heart for preservation and his ability to see things not as they are but could be. I can’t think of a greater place for the community to enjoy. A repurposed First National Bank Building that now welcomes everyone in a setting that only Main Street can provide. People love it, and why not with as fine a young man as you could hope for, Kevin McLaughlin presiding over his dream.

The entrance into the Larema world. Here we have an example of honoring the past while building a future.

This photograph is a magic moment of seeing the future through old windows.

This gathering came to listen to a Preservation Rocky Mount program. Peter Varney shared his knowledge of the Five Points Area.

MACHAVEN, restored, and saved. In acquiring this property, Jesse stopped everything to save this grand architectural gem. Click Here to read an earlier post that includes photographs.  The crown jewel, as they say, in the Villa Place Historic District, Machaven is surrounded by an outstanding inventory of residential homes, a walkable distance to downtown. This is a gift to the community that holds many memories of this historic home. I have lost count of how many shotguns and other small homes he has undertaken.

The rendering of the new interior courtyard.

Saved for last, The Carlton House. I have never heard Jesse moan or groan over the obstacles placed before him by our City Government as it pertains to the Carlton House or any project. That’s because he is a good man. I fail the test in this category. I am appalled at the loss of this opportunity and deliberate dragging of feet to thwart him in these efforts. “Oh, ghee that $14,000 grant money must have gotten lost on my desk.”   I am fortunate to have seen the plans for this significant asset while touring the property with Jesse.

What we have here is a haphazard, arbitrary, unprioritized approach to planning. The latest scheme rather than recognizing a pivotal piece in the Main Street puzzle. We now know why the Carleton House was sabotaged.  Presented as a  fait ac·com·pli., we have a single-source bid again as the results of a trip to Florida by the City Manager. The rationale, we’ve never had a hotel in Edgecombe County. Oh, and a zillion-dollar parking garage while we are at it. There are no substantial statistics to prove need, probable success, necessary occupancy to even hope to make a go of it.  And, of course, how are the usual suspects going to make any money out of The Carlton House.  You wonder how many investors have been run off because there is no attempt to work towards a win-win outcome for the city and the investor. Jesse and others like him, deserve our gratitude and support for the restoration and repurposing of Main Street. We have councilmen serving beyond their usefulness who have done little to protect Main Street except where it suits them and their cronies. It is shameful.

About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: Stephenyhoughtlin.com
This entry was posted in Economic Development in Rocky Mount NC, Machaven Historic Hom, Preservation of Historic Commercial Buildings, Preservation Success and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Investor, Jesse Gerstl – I’ve Seen the Super Man Cape He Wears

  1. Randy Adcox says:

    I too have met and shared conversation with Jesse. His vision and his willingness to “put his money where his mouth is” are two of the best qualities in a developer a city like ours could ever hope for. And instead of encouraging and indeed *assisting* the man in his undertaking, it seems certain members of our city council have let personal ambitions and “pet projects” get in the way of rational thinking, and they’ve become more of a hindrance than an enthusiastic partner.
    Jesse Gerstl doesn’t *need* Rocky Mount, but we sure as heck need him – and many others like him! I’m reminded of an old saying that seems particularly apropos here, “Either lead, follow or get out of the way!”. Perhaps it’s time for certain members of this city council to get out of the way and let those like Mr. Gerstl do what it is they do!

    Like

  2. Kevin Pierce says:

    I would love to see the May Gorham building. My sweet mother who is now almost 75, worked there 53 years ago behind the counter. I bet she would get a hoot outta seeing it again.

    Like

  3. tomabetts@gmail.com says:

    I agree, Jesse Gerstl is a fine man, and we are so fortunate to have him in town!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s