Image by Akintola Hanif

South Ward: Omar

In 2011, I started off selling $1 bottles of oil for women and men and I came up with this gimmick, something concerning hygiene, something universal. I thought of the slogan “smell good, look good” and started putting that in people’s ear.  It worked.  The first day,  I sold 700 bottles.

The South Ward has been my  home base since 2015. It’s residential, it’s a community. People have more time to stop. The people have welcomed me with open arms because they respect my business tactics. It’s not all about getting a dollar, it’s about reaching out, bringing solutions instead of more problems.

The crime here only takes place where there are a few bad apples. By God’s mercy, I haven’t witnessed anything. But people tell me this or that happened on the block, and the person who died may be somebody that purchased something from me, or their family and friends, and that affects me. There was a young fellow who passed, he always used to buy scarves from me. He would never walk past without buying a scarf. He would give some to his moms. Last summer, he got murdered. His moms told me he was buried in one of the scarves.

Crime definitely affects the businessman. People don’t want to come out anymore. One guy asked me, do you ever get scared? I told him, being amongst your people you can tell when things are about to occur, you can see an accident waiting to happen. That doesn’t mean the fear isn’t there, it’s just knowing your people. I understand my people and what they go through daily—from the young mothers, to the fathers, the drug addicts, the gang violence and prostitution, to the businessman who’s striving just to keep his lights on.  If you hire the people that you’re amongst, your job will be easier. Don’t go five cities away to hire people that have no idea of the history of Newark, that have no idea who they’re dealing with.

With Newark the question is, who’s going to have the guts to come here with their investors and really rub shoulders with the city? I want them to grab the youth. Start at 15 and give them training so they can feel like somebody instead of feeling like they’re stuck. I would like for these businesses to come in and spread the wealth. Don’t come in and just take over.

Omar Murray, Owner, Mr. Smell Good, Look Good, Lyons Avenue

as told to Deja Jones