Being that I’m from Baltimore, a lot of times when I mention my hometown, the first response I hear from people is “THE WIRE,” the world famous HBO series about the 90’s drug trade in the streets of Baltimore and beyond. This TV Show became a hit and introduced women all over the country to Idris Elba who played one of the show’s main characters, Stringer Bell. If you ask me about B-More I’ll always say ‘I love it,’ and like any city, you just have to be mindful of the dangerous, seedy parts of town. So being from Baltimore, and having interactions with family and friends in the “GAME,” when Douglas Parson Jr. named his book “The Art Of Flipping Bricks,’ being that Flippin’ Bricks is a street term… I put two and two together and got 2.2.
2.2 pounds = 1 kilogram. 1 kilogram of cocaine or heroin is called a brick because of the way it’s tightly packaged into a hard triangle block. That can also refer to a pound of marijuana. The more you know…Nowadays people are very open about their life, be it real or fictitious, in the drug game. People like Jay-Z and Mark Wahlberg, as well as many other successful entrepreneurs from other walks of life, have been able to transition from the streets to the boardrooms. Just surviving the game is a tremendous feat in and of itself.
So what was it that took a young street hustler from the streets of Indianapolis, Indiana to being a Real Estate Mogul in Atlanta? My hope and prayer is that this inspires someone about the power of determination, but most of all… the power of love.
(Now let me give you a little precursor-footnote for this read, Doug and Atiya Parson finish each other’s sentences like a couple in their 80’s even though they’re much younger than that! So, I’ll try to let you know when it’s both of them speaking with a “D&A”).
Let’s start from the beginning. Where are you two originally from?
Doug: We’re originally from Indianapolis, Indiana but we have been in Atlanta for over 20 years so it’s like we have two homes.
Atiya: Yep, we moved here in 2000. We moved here in 2000 but when we left Indianapolis in 1996 we moved to Lexington Kentucky. Doug told me, “Look, some things are happening, and I need to get out of here and change my life.”
I was in college at the time, so I asked him where he was going, and he said ‘Lexington’ because he had an aunt and uncle that lived there. So I told him, ‘WELL YOU’RE NOT LEAVING ME!!’ I don’t know what I was thinking about but…
Doug: I didn’t even think to ask her to come! I told her I was ready to change my life, and that I was out of here. I had family in Kentucky, I was like, I’M GOING and just never thought to ask her to come with me.
How long have you two been together?
Atiya: Since we were 21!
Doug: We’ve been together 28 years and married for 24 years
Atiya: Yes! And I was in college! Originally I was enrolled at an HBCU for 2 years, but when my mom decided to move back to the Virgin Islands, I was pretty much on my own so I moved back home and enrolled in college in Indianapolis. That’s when I met Doug. So when he said he was going to move to Lexington, I decided to transfer to the University of Kentucky and I finished my last year and a half of College there. I went to school for education so I’ve been in Education for 25 years.
Doug: I also went to school there in Kentucky at the community college. So although I just came from being a hustler in the streets, I actually went to school! Even though I was dealing with house types, I went to school to be an architect for a short period of time.
Atiya: After I finished school and was looking at the pay scales for people in education in Kentucky, and how low they were, that’s when we came to Atlanta for a better opportunity.
Doug: And let me be clear, this was a big change too, moving from Indianapolis, because I wasn’t a small time hustler. I was a HUGE hustler in the city. It was a big change when we left, you know. We went through the ups and the downs. Going from driving a Mercedes and a Lexus to having to sell those things and get regular jobs and having to build back up. It was a trying time, but Atiya stuck with me the whole time…
Atiya: He even sold a couple of my cars! Cars that he bought me! But he told me ‘There are some things we need to take care of, I want to sell the cars and I’ll get you something else to get back and forth in. When I get back on my feet I’ll get you something else.’
Sounds to me like Douglas reconstructed and reinvented himself in business, and then liquidated and downsized. That is definitely entrepreneurial prowess to me.
Doug: What’s so crazy is that I just put a post on my IG a couple of days ago and it was from Bob Johnson. He was saying that some of the best businessmen in the world are drug dealers. And he went through all the positive things that they have to do in business to be successful. And I remember Atiya said, ‘Well not all of them can do that. Some are not as brilliant as you.’ What we try to do is change the mindset of those who think the streets are the only way. We encourage them to come over to the other side. We help them build their financial stability and then they can leave their family a legacy.
How did you get into buying and “flipping” properties?
Doug: Well, I bought my first house at 18. Eventually I fixed it up and sold it but I wasn’t really trying to flip it. But when we moved to Kentucky and were buying our first house, there I was around people who were flipping houses. I wanted them for rental but I ended up fixing them up and selling them. But I learned about flipping early and I still deal with the guy who helped me get my first house in Indianapolis to this day. I fixed up a couple of my buddy’s houses in Lexington to rent out and then just decided to sell them. When I saw how much money I made and how much I put in, that was my first inkling. The second thing was when I first started dealing with real estate I started doing short appraisals for the banks. Pretty much drive-by appraisals. Broker price opinion. They might have paid us $100 a pop versus $500, and because we got so many, I could do 100’s of them. So the way I REALLY started flipping is because the bank would give me the list of properties at their low asking price and I had the list first for my appraisals, but when I saw how much the investors made after fixing the property and selling it that’s when I saw the big money opportunity. At that point I had to keep some of these and purchase them myself. And that’s how I got started.
So you decided to move to Atlanta. How did you get into real estate there?
Doug: When we first moved down here there was a lady that helped us out, her name was Elizabeth Johnson. Coming from the Midwest where we come from, I had never seen some of the things she showed me. First off when she pulled up, she was sporting long cornrows and was driving a red convertible Benz. As she was taking us around looking at houses and she wanted to take us by her house. Well, we pulled up to her house and it was probably 8,000-10,000 square feet. It was sitting up on a hill, with red bricks, with a pool, and more Benzes, motorcycles… Once we got in the house, it had double spiral staircases…It was just beautiful! And you know what she told me, “Hey Doug, if you ever want to get into real estate, go to this school, and as soon as you get your license call me and I’ll put you right on!”
Atiya: And that’s exactly what she did! She took us under her wing. It was divine order.
Doug: By this time it was real estate or nothing for me. I had no plan B. And Atiya held the family down too; all while getting her PHD, working, and taking care of the kids. Then she went on to get her Real Estate license as well!
Who was your first celebrity client?
Doug: Our first celebrity was referred to us by Coach K, but it was actually PreMadonna. The rapper/Waist Gang Society, now cookware mogul! I still remember, after I sold her the house, Atiya and I went to dinner with her and her husband and I remember her saying to me, “Doug I’m a celebrity! (Laughs) You’re a celebrity realtor now!” Then Coach K called me and said, “Hey man, PreMadonna just posted you on her page! Do you know what that means??” I said ‘Nah, I don’t know what that means…’ I can remember the next day we went to the mall and I promise you that thousands of people followed and pinged me on social media! And after that, the celebrities just rolled in: Coach K, Twin & Simone, QC, Safari, Young Joc, ATL Jacob, Go Grizz, Pinky Cole, and more.
Find out more about Doug “Bricks” & Atiya “Blondie” Parson and their inspiring journey, amazing love and success story in Douglas and Atiya Parson’s new book, We Nailed It! The Blueprint to Real Estate & Relationships available now on Amazon: Bricks and Blondie We Nailed It!: The Blueprint for Real Estate and Relationships: Parson Jr., Douglas, Parson, Atiya: 9781954609556: Amazon.com: Books
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Photo Credit: Rari Filmz