Who's Got the Money in Miami?

In the second of our series profiling the Magic City, The Root takes a look at who's holding the purse strings in the 3-0-5.

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From the streets of Miami's historic Overtown neighborhood, residents can see the rows and clusters of gleaming luxury condominium towers built in the last few years. The resort-style buildings -- with swimming pools that shimmer in the sun, state-of-the-art gyms and concierge service -- stretch from burgeoning midtown to downtown.

Like giant sentinels, some of the tony buildings watch over the American Airlines Arena and dwarf the landmark Freedom Tower, gateway into the United States for thousands of Cubans who fled Fidel Castro's communist takeover and who would change Miami's cultural, business and political makeup for good.

To the predominantly poor and black residents of Overtown, the shadow-casting condo buildings are a daily, in-your-face reminder that economic progress and prosperity has left them in the dust. Once a thriving black community with many businesses and a nightlife that attracted top-notch celebrities, Overtown has now languished for decades in socioeconomic despair. Businesses that brought economic prosperity to the neighborhood and elevated a middle class, despite forced segregation, are long gone. And yet, some continue to hold out hope, working to revitalize business centers.

"We cannot give up on our businesses," says Willie Williams, owner of Just Right Barber Shop in the heart of Overtown. "We have to put the people in the neighborhood back to work."

A tall order in Overtown in the best of times -- and in a tough economy, a distant goal.

Yet black business is thriving in other parts of the city and beyond, with law firms, accounting firms, and myriad industrial and professional services holding their own.

NailBar, owned by Edourd and Christine Joseph, is just one of those businesses. Located in Midtown 4, one of the hottest addresses in the city, the eco-friendly nail salon is drawing clients galore after just four months of doing business. "It's going amazingly," says Christine, 33. Her husband Edourd, 40, adds, "Within the first month and a half, we were in the green."

The salon, with its soothing ambience, has 12 employees providing a range of services that include manicures, pedicures and full-body waxing. Clients get to sit in egg-shaped chairs that have iPod docking stations. The salon also hands clients iPads to surf the Internet wirelessly while they are getting their pedicures. The Josephs say that they are planning to open two more salons in Florida and eventually hope to franchise.

This isn't the Josephs' first venture in the Miami business world. For 15 years they have been manufacturing and distributing Prince Reigns, an all-natural ingrown-hair serum for men and women. (Oprah Winfrey chose the product as one of her favorite things several years ago.) Initially, the Josephs marketed their product in the Caribbean and Latin America. For the past five years, it's been sold in more than 1,000 salons across the United States. Edourd says the serum grossed more than $1 million in profits in 2009. 

After the success of Prince Reigns, "it was a natural transition for my wife and me to start the NailBar," he adds. "There was a real need."

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