Legends Martin, Sims, Benet

Written by admin   // February 24, 2011   // 0 Comments

Bezelee Martin

Bezelee Martin is head of the Black familyowned dynasty known as Lena’s Food Market. He

was always an entrepreneur, starting his own lawn mowing business as a child and employing other neighborhood children as employees. He ran a soda and chicken concession stand at baseball games, and sold Blair’s products—all before reaching

adulthood.

Born in Dumas, Arkansas and reared in Boley, Oklahoma—an all Black town—Martin’s mother always instilled in him the importance of being on time. His entrepreneurial spirit and strict rearing paid off.

Martin attended Milwaukee Area Technical College where he took business and bookkeeping while working at a tannery. By 1950, he was the first black licensed car dealer in Wisconsin. By 1957, he was selling his own brand of stockings,

Martin Hosiery, to women, and by 1958, Martin was operating his own trucking company. Martin and his wife Lena opened their first grocery store in the Harambee section of Milwaukee, more than 35 years ago. By 1965, they owned a 3,000-square foot location. Martin purchased Milwaukee’s 13,000-square foot Kohl Food Store in 2001.

During this period, he purchased four sites for Lena’s Food Market giving it a square footage of 87,000 to utilize.

In 2005, Martin used $3.7 million in New Market Tax Credits through the Wisconsin Housing and Urban Development Authority to open a more spacious store. That made Lena’s Food Market the first minority owned business to receive these credits. In 2007, Lena’s Food Market purchased two new locations raising the total to six stores and employing more than 600 people.

Today Lena’s Foods is proudly operated by a second generation of Martins – Anthony, Derrick and Greg; the sons of Bezelee and Lena. Martin’s hard work, determination and entrepreneurial spirit have served him well, and have helped make him a legend in his own time.

Deloris Sims

Deloris Sims started her banking career as a part-time teller for Firstar Bank in Milwaukee’s central city community, where she has lived since the age of five. Over the course of 28 years, she rose up through the ranks of the bank to become a vice president and a business banker, developing five Firstar banks in the city. All the while she watched as her own neighborhood—a low-income minority community—steadily deteriorated.

When Sims retired from Firstar Bank in 1998, she joined with two other women, Margaret Henningsen and Shirley Lanier, who shared an interest in banking to raise more than $6 million in less than a year to capitalize and a bank in Milwaukee’s central city community. Ironically, the building that is now known as Legacy Bank is the same Firstar building that Sims spent most of career working in. The women purchased the building, renovated it and on July 27, 1999, Legacy Bank opened its doors. Under Sims leadership as president and CEO, Legacy Bank accrued more than $200 million in assets.

Legacy Bank is the first African-American, women-owned, chartered bank in Wisconsin.

Though she has since retired as the bank’s president, Sims continues to serve as a member of the Board of Directors for: the Legacy Foundation; the National Bankers Association; the Milwaukee Art Museum; State of Wisconsin Investment Board; Wisconsin African-American Women, LTD; 1290 Scholarship Fund; Business Council-MMAC; The Milwaukee Boarding School Partnership with the SEED Foundation; Generation Growth Capital, Inc.; Great Lakes Scholarship Fund; Advisory Board member for the Joe Zilber (Zilber Foundation); founder of the Wisconsin Urban Bankers Association (past President).

Sims has been honored with recognitions over the years and remains active within the community. She serves as a panelist in numerous forums and workshops to share her expertise in the field of finance. She completed the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina in 2003 and 2004 curriculum “Graduate School of Bank Investment and Financial Management, University of South Carolina.” She also was awarded a Certificate of Achievement for the completion of the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship Owner-Manager Program at Marquette University of Business Administration and took courses at MATC, Business Administration. She also is the winner of the 2003 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Financial Services. Sims and Legacy Bank are true legacies in the Milwaukee community.

Eric Benet

Grammy nominee Eric Benet’s has consistently made music that speaks to love and speaks from the soul. Benet has frequently returned to Milwaukee to record with local musicians, including the Milwaukee Symphony’s string section.

Born and reared in Milwaukee as Eric Benet Jordan, Benet is the youngest of five from a very musical household. His father, a police detective, loved classical music, while his mother would sing around the house, even singing the household chores to the kids. Benet started showcasing his musical talent in church in the gospel choir. Eventually, he expanded to school plays and musicals, and he realized at a young age that he wanted to pursue music professionally.

His first professional break came when he joined a local group, Gerard, in the late 80’s. They toured various night clubs and small venues covering top 40 tunes. It was during this time that Eric learned through experience.

He experimented and performed all types of music from rock to pop to soul to hip hop. Later Benet, his cousin, and his sister formed the group Benet.

A demo tape that they produced eventually found its way to Allison Ball-Gabriel, a music executive, leading to Benet getting a music deal with EMI Records.

Benet’s career was interrupted by a series of personal tragedies. His father died of cancer. Then, 15 months after his daughter, India was born, his girlfriend, Tami Marie Stauff, died of injuries suffered in an automobile crash.

He took a job with United Parcel Service in Milwaukee and eased back into music by producing demo recordings for local artists.

Eventually Benet launched a solo career that earned and produced songs that earned him Grammy nominations: (Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group) “Spend My Life with You” (with Tamia); 2009, Nominee (Best R&B Male Performance) “You’re the Only One”; and 2009, Nominee (Best R&B Album) Love & Life.

Benet has devoted his life to music, with much success, and he is one of Milwaukee’s musical legends.

Bezelee Martin

Bezelee Martin is head of the Black familyowned dynasty known as Lena’s Food Market. He

was always an entrepreneur, starting his own lawn mowing business as a child and employing other neighborhood children as employees. He ran a soda and chicken concession stand at baseball games, and sold Blair’s products—all before reaching

adulthood.

Born in Dumas, Arkansas and reared in Boley, Oklahoma—an all Black town—Martin’s mother always instilled in him the importance of being on time. His entrepreneurial spirit and strict rearing paid off.

Martin attended Milwaukee Area Technical College where he took business and bookkeeping while working at a tannery. By 1950, he was the first black licensed car dealer in Wisconsin. By 1957, he was selling his own brand of stockings,

Martin Hosiery, to women, and by 1958, Martin was operating his own trucking company. Martin and his wife Lena opened their first grocery store in the Harambee section of Milwaukee, more than 35 years ago. By 1965, they owned a 3,000-square foot location. Martin purchased Milwaukee’s 13,000-square foot Kohl Food Store in 2001.

During this period, he purchased four sites for Lena’s Food Market giving it a square footage of 87,000 to utilize.

In 2005, Martin used $3.7 million in New Market Tax Credits through the Wisconsin Housing and Urban Development Authority to open a more spacious store. That made Lena’s Food Market the first minority owned business to receive these credits. In 2007, Lena’s Food Market purchased two new locations raising the total to six stores and employing more than 600 people.

Today Lena’s Foods is proudly operated by a second generation of Martins – Anthony, Derrick and Greg; the sons of Bezelee and Lena. Martin’s hard work, determination and entrepreneurial spirit have served him well, and have helped make him a legend in his own time.

 

Deloris Sims

Deloris Sims started her banking career as a part-time teller for Firstar Bank in Milwaukee’s central city community, where she has lived since the age of five. Over the course of 28 years, she rose up through the ranks of the bank to become a vice president and a business banker, developing five Firstar banks in the city. All the while she watched as her own neighborhood—a low-income minority community—steadily deteriorated.

When Sims retired from Firstar Bank in 1998, she joined with two other women, Margaret Henningsen and Shirley Lanier, who shared an interest in banking to raise more than $6 million in less than a year to capitalize and a bank in Milwaukee’s central city community. Ironically, the building that is now known as Legacy Bank is the same Firstar building that Sims spent most of career working in. The women purchased the building, renovated it and on July 27, 1999, Legacy Bank opened its doors. Under Sims leadership as president and CEO, Legacy Bank accrued more than $200 million in assets.

Legacy Bank is the first African-American, women-owned, chartered bank in Wisconsin.

Though she has since retired as the bank’s president, Sims continues to serve as a member of the Board of Directors for: the Legacy Foundation; the National Bankers Association; the Milwaukee Art Museum; State of Wisconsin Investment Board; Wisconsin African-American Women, LTD; 1290 Scholarship Fund; Business Council-MMAC; The Milwaukee Boarding School Partnership with the SEED Foundation; Generation Growth Capital, Inc.; Great Lakes Scholarship Fund; Advisory Board member for the Joe Zilber (Zilber Foundation); founder of the Wisconsin Urban Bankers Association (past President).

Sims has been honored with recognitions over the years and remains active within the community. She serves as a panelist in numerous forums and workshops to share her expertise in the field of finance. She completed the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina in 2003 and 2004 curriculum “Graduate School of Bank Investment and Financial Management, University of South Carolina.” She also was awarded a Certificate of Achievement for the completion of the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship Owner-Manager Program at Marquette University of Business Administration and took courses at MATC, Business Administration. She also is the winner of the 2003 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Financial Services. Sims and Legacy Bank are true legacies in the Milwaukee community.

 

Eric Benet

Grammy nominee Eric Benet’s has consistently made music that speaks to love and speaks from the soul. Benet has frequently returned to Milwaukee to record with local musicians, including the Milwaukee Symphony’s string section.

Born and reared in Milwaukee as Eric Benet Jordan, Benet is the youngest of five from a very musical household. His father, a police detective, loved classical music, while his mother would sing around the house, even singing the household chores to the kids. Benet started showcasing his musical talent in church in the gospel choir. Eventually, he expanded to school plays and musicals, and he realized at a young age that he wanted to pursue music professionally.

His first professional break came when he joined a local group, Gerard, in the late 80’s. They toured various night clubs and small venues covering top 40 tunes. It was during this time that Eric learned through experience.

He experimented and performed all types of music from rock to pop to soul to hip hop. Later Benet, his cousin, and his sister formed the group Benet.

A demo tape that they produced eventually found its way to Allison Ball-Gabriel, a music executive, leading to Benet getting a music deal with EMI Records.

Benet’s career was interrupted by a series of personal tragedies. His father died of cancer. Then, 15 months after his daughter, India was born, his girlfriend, Tami Marie Stauff, died of injuries suffered in an automobile crash.

He took a job with United Parcel Service in Milwaukee and eased back into music by producing demo recordings for local artists.

Eventually Benet launched a solo career that earned and produced songs that earned him Grammy nominations: (Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group) “Spend My Life with You” (with Tamia); 2009, Nominee (Best R&B Male Performance) “You’re the Only One”; and 2009, Nominee (Best R&B Album) Love & Life.

Benet has devoted his life to music, with much success, and he is one of Milwaukee’s musical legends.


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