Thinking Outside the Box
Born into a musical family in the Bronx, Mr. Redd discovered a new talent or hustle in nearly every stage of his life. As a clever young 12-year-old, he started his first business — a shoeshine box downtown that earned him pockets full of quarters.
As a student in high school in 1955, Mr. Redd released music on MGM Records as a member of a popular teen quartet. And, as a member of the YMCA in the Bronx, he discovered yet another talent — table tennis — a game he continued playing while he served in the U.S. Marines.
“People try to put you in a box, but life is so much more than that,” he says. “You have to keep learning and improving yourself.”
Opening Harlem’s First Coffee Shop
When Mr. Redd returned from military service, he made his mark as an entrepreneur. In 1965, he became co-owner of The Truth, reportedly the first coffee shop in Harlem. Known for its fresh, imported coffee from the Black diaspora, the shop became a trendy gathering place for sharp-dressed Harlemites. It’s hard to fathom living in the Civil Rights era, let alone starting a business in Harlem at that time. But, then, many aren’t as cool as Mr. Redd.
To top it off, Mr. Redd spent many years living in Liberia and Sierra Leone, working in the trade of raw African materials. While living in Africa, he continued to sharpen his table tennis skills, even earning certification to represent Sierra Leone at the Olympics.
Never Stop Growing
Today, Mr. Redd is (mostly) retired, his life as a musician, entrepreneur, et al in the rearview. But that hasn’t stopped him from growing. He his job as an after school athletics specialist — and his students — to thank for that.
“Working with the kids every day has developed me as a person because there is no one size fits all,” he says. “Teaching is a challenge, and I always like a challenge.”