Luck has not been on the side of the Renaissance Club since it opened late last year. The 11,000-square-foot, tri-level private club has fared poorly in its effort to become a power base for well-to-do blacks, a minority version of the Petrolcum Club. Despite $4 million worth of marbled and mirrored walls, brass-railed mahogany bars, and elegant dining facilities overlooking Bachman Lake, the club has failed to attract the influential and upscale black clientele that could make it a success.
Comer Cottrell. head of a hair care and cosmetics company, evidently hoped to establish the Renaissance as the bastion of black power. Eighties style. When he opened the club with Carrollton office equipment entrepreneur Raymond Jones and long-time restaurateur Cincy Powell, he expected to create an environment in which Dallas blacks could cut deals, expand contacts, and make decisions affecting the black community.
So far, though, black movers and shakers have stayed away in droves. Though the Renaissance coasted into 1987 with a successful New Years Eve bash and promises of many to buy memberships costing from $125 to $750, business has been sparse. The flow of customers currently is a bare trickle on weekdays: Friday and Saturday evenings are only marginally better. Club management readily accepts part of the blame for the lukewarm reception the Renaissance has received. “We realize we’ve made some mistakes promoting our concept,” says club operations director Powell. “But now that we know what we’re doing wrong, we’re well on our way to fixing things.”
Powell-who says market research indicated affluent blacks longed for a club like the Renaissance and didn’t mind paying the bucks-concedes he expected more members than the roughly 230 now on the rolls. He blames the slumping Dallas economy for the membership shortfall and predicts that a new installment plan will help fill empty Renaissance tables, “There are people who want to become club members and can’t pay the whole membership fee.”
Though times are, indeed, tough in Dallas, there may be other reasons for the club’s slow start. For example, Cottrell. Jones, and Powell opened their opulent pleasure palace with little advance advertising.
Cultural divisions within the Dallas black community may also be part of the problem. Noticeably absent from the Renaissance Club are many of the familiar South Dallas up-sealers necessary to bolster the networking atmosphere that the club encourages. They seem to be turning up their noses at their North Dallas brethren who, according to one South Dallas resident, “used to be one of us until they moved north after making some big money.” And Cottrell himself may be an issue: since his arrival in Dallas less than a decade ago. Cornell’s ties with the Citizens Council and his views on how blacks should embrace mainstream Dallas have rubbed some blacks the wrong way.
But Renaissance backers aren’t giving up. “We realize it’s going to take some time for us to build up to where we want to be.” says Powell. “We are not here to appeal to the masses, so those who appreciate what we | offer will seek us out.”