The Beauty of a Bed and Breakfast in Detroit
Near the heart of Brush Park lies an Italian, 19th-century mansion with curb appeal and charm that even the most critical realtor can’t deny. The exterior of the home tells a unique story, but the women who work behind the door share a story that exudes Detroit hustle and resilience. After an initial $85,000 purchase, and over five years of work, the Cochrane House, a luxury bed and breakfast, was born.
Sisters Roderica and Francina James had no clue that they’d own a bed and breakfast in Detroit. Growing up, they followed in the footsteps of their parents with Roderica pursuing a career in education like their mother and Francina in law like their father. Their mother started a tutoring business, and they insisted on being involved in their mother’s new business endeavor. After the company expanded to Atlanta and Mississippi, the sisters had taken on leadership roles with Francina overseeing operations in Michigan and Roderica in the south. This was the James’ sisters formal introduction to entrepreneurship.
“My mom would always allow us to feel our way through and learn lessons ourselves,” says Roderica.
The lessons their mom allowed them to experience contributed to their current success, and she trusted them enough to assist in their next endeavor in real estate. Roderica and her mother bought her first condo when she was 22 years old. When she moved to Atlanta in 2008, it was her first experience renting a home. After Roderica realized she was spent almost $16,000 in renting a condo at the end of the year, she decided not to lease anymore. At 30, she started small and took steps to fix up a property that she had bought in the Lake Spivey, GA. From then, she went on a real estate binge and brought her mother and sister on board.
The purchase of the property was before Detroit’s revitalization. The sisters understood the opportunity of owning the home located at 216 Winder St. For the James’ sisters, they knew that ownership was one of the keys to wealth. They also knew the power of working collectively and sacrificing to reach the goal of owning multiple properties between Michigan and Georgia that would yield a significant return on their investment. The rapid increase of gentrification has raised awareness of ownership in black communities. With projects such as the Tulsa Real Estate fund, blacks have come together to invest in their communities.
“You don’t always have to buy a home. Buy a piece of land, or a parcel and pay the taxes on it. Instead of spending $1000 on something that depreciates, invest in some land,” Roderica says.
The sisters encourage millennials to invest in their communities. With Detroit as one of the leading cities in the rise of housing costs, there is a way for people to have their piece of the pie. The Detroit Land Bank has homes and lots that are going for as low as $1,000. Many of those homes require work, but it will be worth the investment in the end.
“I knew it was going to be something,” says Roderica.
When she looked up the zoning and realized the location was prime real estate with historical value, she knew it was a home that they couldn’t pass up. Though the vision of a bed and breakfast had not come yet, they knew that the property was priced well and would be an excellent investment. In 2011, they decided that the house was going to be a bed and breakfast and incorporated in 2012. Being steps away from Comerica Park and the not yet announced “entertainment district,” the Cochrane House was conceived. It was a great addition to the hospitality market that was very much lacking at the time.
“I love design, I designed the space myself,” says Roderica.
As children, they did as most little girls do and often played with Barbies. Roderica’s love for interior design foreshadowed her knack for creating beautiful spaces when she spent time creating her Barbie’s dream penthouse atop the bar in their childhood home. Today, her friends and family ask for her assistance in curating their homes.
The recurring theme of working together as a family goes far beyond the building of Cochrane House. The sisters split duties in the day to day from making breakfast to preparing the rooms after the guests leave. Ownership ranks high on the list of value with these ladies. Their story encourages all people to invest in the pieces that are left behind in their communities. They understand that investing in the community requires a village, but it is possible to have a part of the city where you live.