NORFOLK, Va. - If this stretch of 35th Street in Park Place is Norfolk's Soul District, then Freshtopia is its beating heart.
DJ Bee is the voice and the brains behind this decade-old online record shop and radio station. In 2019, he opened a physical space, one of only a handful of Black-owned record stores in the country.
"I'm not the biggest. I may be the smallest, but I got a lot of stuff here," he says.
Everything from Public Enemy to Pantera. DJ Bee says this humble store is what helped his business survive 2020.
"We were already heavy shipping out online. So, when we got the brick-and-mortar, more people trusted us."
The orders kept coming, enough to keep the lights on and the turntables spinning. Pandemic-weary shoppers all over the world finding relief in a record.
Whatever Freshtopia might have brought in during the pandemic, DJ Bee gave right back, turning his store into a neighborhood hot spot and helping the people of this community who needed it most.
"A lot of resources people didn't really have as far as filing for unemployment or students contacting their teachers. We had three computers here that people could use and have Internet service to complete their work or contact unemployment or get a job," he adds.
DJ Bee and his wife also lead weekly group bike rides that bring many to the neighborhood. The two helped secure a grant that brought bike racks to the block. And they've partnered with city groups to give away reusable cloth face masks.
Planting seeds, he hopes, will pump new life into Park Place and in the people who call it home.
"I'm just a DJ; that's what I love to do. But my passion has turned into something major that I can help the community with," he says.
Passion... and a lot of heart and soul.