• Thu. Feb 9th, 2023

Bond Hill street becomes Dr. Steven Reece Sr. Way

‘Steve was a trailblazer back in the day’

By Dan Yount

The Cincinnati Herald

Local entrepreneur, civic and Civil Rights leader Dr. Steven Reece says the corner of East Seymour Avenue at Langdon Farm Road in Bond Hill has been a significant location in his 50-year business and civic life. It was there that Reece was honored last week as the street was, in an honorary fashion, renamed “Dr. Steven Reece Sr. Way” by Cincinnati officials after Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley introduced Reece’s name for the street. The proposal was then unanimously passed by the City Council.

Reece said three events that occurred at that corner were very important to him. 

One was when, as an aspiring businessman, he received his first promotional contract in 1967. The late Aretha Franklin was performing at Cincinnati Gardens (now demolished) at the corner, and, through contact with her brother who knew Reece, signed him as a promoter for the concert during which Reece introduced her to the audience, Reece said. Aretha, who was just starting a national tour, gave him some helpful advice, he added. “Better get involved, for my sister is gonna be great,” Reece said the brother advised him.

Soon after, now-Hamilton County Auditor and DJ Dusty Rhodes, got Reece involved in promoting a Beetles concert at Cincinnati Gardens. That was followed with Reece traveling the country promoting music festivals with George Wein and Dino Santangelo Music.

A second important event that occurred near that intersection was when Reece was pitching for the Avondale Eagles at Roselawn Park, now the P&G Cincinnati Reds Youth Academy. Officials tried to disqualify Reece, saying he was too young to pitch as well as he did. Coach Handy Matthews went to get Reece’s birth certificate to prove his age, the game proceeded, and the Eagles won the City championship defeating the Avondale Gentry, 7-2.

A third memory that makes the intersection special to Reece occurred when he and his brother went to Cincinnati Gardens to see Oscar Robertson and the Cincinnati Royals play. After the game, and while waiting for a bus in the rain in front of the building Reece would later purchase and turn into an urban multipurpose center, the building owners called police who came and took them to the police station. Their father came to the station to explain he had purchased tickets for the game for them, and they were released. “We all were very upset about the incident,’’ Reece said.

In June 1988, Reece bought with his own financing that building where they were waiting in the rain for a bus, used all minority contractors in remodeling it, and eventually moved four of his own businesses into it. They included Reece and Reece Executive Suites, a real estate development company; Communiplex Services, a promotional and marketing company; Operation Step-Up, a nonprofit that helped young people turn their lives around; and senior consulting company.

“This all started in my parents’ basement back in high school,” Reece said. “My mother gave me a desk, typewriter, file cabinet and phone. I had told a counselor I wanted be an entrepreneur, and she thought I was crazy. However, my uncle, Sam Reece, took me on tour of Black colleges and major Black business, so I would have an idea of how successful Black people, who had the same ideas that I had, had become. My father worked two jobs, and I learned about work ethics from him. So, I came back home and started in business.’’

His first official office was at 515 Mellish Avenue, then at 35 E. 7th St. In1988, he purchased the photo plant on Seymour, developed it into a multi- purpose urban center, with a daycare center, three apartments, a beauty salon, business offices with an ATM machine, Integrity Banquet Center, and a parking lot.

“And we owned all of it, which was unusual for a Black person at that time, especially in Bond Hill.”

Reece owned the urban center from 1988 until January 2015, when The Port purchased property around the intersection for redevelopment.

Reece said he felt, “God put me on my mission after I graduated from Withrow High School.”

“I knew Steve as a young guy, even before he started out,’’ said the Rev. Damon Lynch Jr., pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church.  “He wanted to be involved in the community, and started promoting Aaron Pryor, the WBA Junior Welterweight Champion in Pryor’s early years. He also worked in politics as Mayor Ted Berry’s legislative aide. The Seymour/Langdon corner was a hot business spot for many years, and Steve saw the opportunity there. “Steve was a trailblazer back in the day.”

Reece was married to the late Barbara Reece, and their children include Hamilton County Commissioner Alicia Reece, Steven Reece Jr., a state championship (2018) high school basketball coach in Florida, and Tiffany Stewart, an employee at Cincinnati Recreation Commission. He is now married to Michelle Reece.