A woman at 244 N. Ridgewood Ave. was busy pulling weeds in the back parking lot of the newly refurbished building.
Other times she has been seen driving a forklift. Dr. Suchen Hebert owns the building, the building next door and one of the most successful flooring companies in the country, but her hands on approach is just one facet of the positive changes herself and husband, Gerry, are bringing to Daytona Beach.
Dr. Hebert designs and manufactures hardwood flooring for her company (Allwood Group), which is based in Oregon. Her passion is making high-end, quality products that are environmentally friendly.
Mr. Hebert, whose first wife died, has now been married about 10 years to Dr. Hebert. The couple have found a home in Palm Coast and, although still have Allwood and a number of rental properties and other business ventures including overseas factories, they are excited about their own style of revitalizing Daytona Beach buildings and giving beginning entrepreneurs a chance to launch their own business out of their properties.
They don't ask for big money upfront or charge the tenants for renovations, doing them themselves. They have two tenants.
The buildings are freshly painted with a unique purple trim and have new A/C systems, LED lighting and stadium lighting in the back. There will be new asphalt and gates. Projected uses may include a new restaurant, dance studio, wedding venue, special photography studio, and legal and medical offices.
In Daytona Beach, the Heberts are putting the finishing touches on their buildings at both 240 and 244 N. Ridgewood Ave. A future project will be at 832 Bill France Blvd.
“My wife is a very serious environmentalist,” Mr. Hebert said. “My wife and I are both entrepreneurs. My wife started (Allwood) 20 years ago with $5,000 and it’s (now) a multi-million-dollar business, which is kind of cool. Most of my life I was a merchant banker. I would buy a bankrupt company, keep it for five years, and turn it around.
“Essentially we are putting our roots down here,” he said. “We are selling properties we have in Oregon.”
Dr. Hebert started a company in Florida called BWF20, which stands for Better World Fund.
“Our dream was to find buildings/construction projects in old parts of the city where the city was looking to see improvement,” Mr. Hebert said. “Daytona was a great option. We found that the people at city hall were very amenable to people coming from outside to improve the city. They jumped over hurdles to make the process easy. Daytona seems to be for working with people to get things done. Our dream is to spend maybe $7 or $8 million in Daytona Beach.”
The properties the couple are acquiring are dilapidated. The A/C units have been stolen, electrical wiring torn out. The Ridgewood buildings were bought several months ago and have been renovated, but landscaping still needs to be completed.
Mr. Hebert stressed politeness is key dealing with the homeless who frequent the area and his property. “That’s the way you have to be if you want to change the downtown core,” he said.
The Heberts also are launching a solar technology company (Renewable Alternatives LLC) to develop sources for solar technology for commercial applications, so fewer fossil fuels are used.
“We’re having lots of fun” Mr. Hebert said. “We like the part about doing the work ourselves. I think we’ve already started changing that little area of the city.”
Dr. Hebert preferred to let her husband do most of the talking, she had to get back to her weeding.