A business venture showed the actor—currently appearing in the film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter—the value of taking matters into his own hands.
I was raised with a sense of entrepreneurship—my father owned a roofing business, and I grew up with the idea that you never want someone telling you what you can and cannot do. I took that to heart. Instead of becoming an engineer like my brother, I moved to New York to be an actor. I'd always thought of myself as a self-starter.
But like most people, I sometimes found myself complaining rather than taking action when something in my surroundings was lacking. Seven years ago, I moved to Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and quickly discovered that there were few places to gather—and no bar where I could chill, watch football, meet other locals, and have a drink. I wanted my neighborhood to feel more like a community. But I wasn't really invested. When I'd walk past construction sites in the area, I'd just say, "I wonder what's going there."
Then one night after watching a New Orleans Saints game—alone, on my couch—I walked by a great location just around the corner from my house. It suddenly dawned on me that there was something I ought to be saying instead: "I know what's going there because I'm building it." I thought, I'm going to do it. I'm going to build our neighborhood spot.
I opened NoBar BKNY last summer. It was a good feeling to see a problem—not just in my own life but in my community—and know that I was fixing it, that I'd gone in there and gotten my hands dirty. And I created the kind of place where I'd want to hang out: At my bar, you'll never pay $15 for a cocktail or hear a bunch of rowdy people shouting over each other. I wanted to open a spot that was affordable and comfortable, where people could get to know their neighbors. My goal was to find a solution and execute it, and I'm proud that I've done that. Now when I see a need, I think, "Why wait for someone else to fill it?"