Nearing 100 years old, this business is on a mission to provide quality housing for all.
Some of us take where we live for granted. The comfort of a quality home. Solid construction. Things working as they should. And repairs done right.
Nicole and Keith Henry of H and H Realty and T.H.E. LLC in Harrisburg, North Carolina would like to see everyone be able to take that for granted. It’s the mission behind their real estate and property management company that they operate with Nicole’s father.
Nearly 100 years old, this family-owned business spans four generations. (Fifth generation is in training.) Their goal today is the same as it was a century ago: Give African-Americans and other traditionally underserved minority groups the opportunity to rent quality, affordable homes for their families—and to pursue homeownership.
Fulfilling a purpose
Nicole Henry’s great-grandfather started the business in 1925. It was no easy feat for an African-American to own property let alone rent it out. His expert craftsmanship, attention to detail, and passion for helping people paved the way for a business that’s flourishing today.
“Even when people started flipping homes, we still wanted to fix homes and, honestly, give our African-American minority communities an opportunity to rent a quality home and have a home for their family,” Nicole said. “And so, with that foundation, we've been doing that for years. My father is a contractor by trade. His father was a contractor by trade. They had other jobs, but that was their passion and their love. So quite naturally, I've been holding a hammer and nails and putting in insulation and painting and fixing stuff almost all my life as well.”
Growing a business
It’s one thing to be an expert at a trade; it’s another to understand the financial side of a business and how to grow it. That’s where Nicole and Keith turned to Peoples Bank in 1995 for financing solutions that would allow them to branch out into commercial lending. They started purchasing land and building duplexes; and they’ve recently entered the vacation rental scene.
For Nicole, the biggest challenge in growing the business was the learning curve.
“Peoples Bank really held our hand,” she said. “The paperwork looked like Greek sometimes, so we’d pick up the phone or email one of them and they’d help us decide what we needed to do, and which was the best avenue. Some of these banks have so much turnover, I can't even get to know anyone because they're not there very long. Peoples Bank has a quality history, which speaks volumes.”
Customer service is key to success
The Henrys are proud of the many people they’ve helped over the years and the relationships they’ve built. Nicole remembers early on interviewing potential tenants at their homes before bringing them on as renters. She’ll never forget the one woman living in a slumlord community with a hole in her floor. She became one of their longest tenants. She speaks fondly of another tenant who is nearing 90 years old and was an original tenant of Nicole’s grandfather.
In her business, Nicole gets to meet people from all walks of life, and she meets them where they are. Her parents taught her the importance of treating people well, knowing their names, understanding who they are, and helping them to feel welcomed and valued.
How you make someone feel matters. It’s what keeps the Henrys coming back to Peoples Bank year after year, decade after decade.
“Peoples Bank is the heartbeat of the community,” Nicole said. “We’ve had just a wonderful relationship for years and they've been phenomenal. I can't say anything less because they've just been so wonderful in all walks of life. They've bent over backwards. I haven't found that at any other bank. Not even close. I don't even try.”
As the Henrys look back on a century of serving community, they reflect on the experiences of their forefathers who settled in Raleigh and the southeast part of the state. Quality housing for rent wasn’t always plentiful, especially for minorities, which makes the efforts of Nicole’s great-grandfather to purchase property and rent it out all the more exceptional.
The Henrys still have the deed (dated 1925) from that very first property, which started a family legacy. It’s a reminder of their family’s history, and a testament to the power of possibility, hard work, and a heart-driven mission.