By E Da Ref
It’s 2021, and it’s time to get the job done. This year we must make, create, and commemorate Black History, all 12 months of the year. We can do so through documentation of events, taking place right now, to make a correlation to events that happened in this past. Right now our hoods in the town are disappearing, due to gentrification, and in this “vehicle of Oakland”; the hood is where the engine is at. The people are the engine, in the hood, that keeps the vehicle of Oakland running.
The culture and history of Oakland reflect the reality of every chocolate city, on the planet. Oakland has had golden glory days of being a center of booming Black economics, full of strong willed and skilled professionals, working in industry and manufacturing. Most of that is gone now, but that spirit and energy lives on. So it is important to showcase and promote Black independent businesses, and Black entrepreneurship, to motivate the youth to do for self. Let’s show an example of young Black people who have developed skills and owned in, on their craft to build institutions for themselves, that can employ and empower Black people.
I’d like to shine the spotlight on a close friend of mine named Melvin Ponder. We grew up together, in the neighborhood of North Oakland. Melvin is a Black entrepreneur, mentor/role model and pilar in the community.
E Da Ref: Tell the people who you are where you from and what you do?
Melvin Ponder: I’m Melvin Ponder from North Oakland California born and raised. I’m an entrepreneur: co-owner of Hometown Heroes Sport Bar, auto repair mechanic and currently a tugboat engineer for Westar marine services located in San Francisco California.
E Da Ref: How did Hometown Heroes Sports Bar come into existence?
Melvin Ponder: Hometown Heroes, located at 4000 Adeline St. in Emeryville, California came about, when one of my good friends Jerremi Clark called me and told me not to buy a Corvette, and invest in a bar that he is working on. I knew he was serious with the bar industry, because I helped them out with another sports bar in San Francisco, called Trademark and Copyright. Hometown Heroes was mostly a turnkey bar. All we had to do was just a little remodeling and proper planning, and that’s how it began.
E Da Ref: What makes this Sports Bar/Restaurant different from the other local restaurants?
Melvin Ponder: Hometown Heroes is different from other bars because we focus on our local neighbors. We make sure that they feel welcome every time they walk through the door. If we are jam packed, and there is a big event going on, we still make sure we accommodate those who are from here and live here, and support us. Each owner from Hometown Heroes is from the Bay Area. I happened to grow up a few blocks down, from where the bar is located right now.
E Da Ref: What were some of the greatest moments you’ve had at Hometown Heroes?
Melvin Ponder: A few of our greatest moments were when we were the host of the Warriors playoff games, or giving away plates to the homeless people, nearby. We allow our kitchen to anybody that is willing to push their brand, and come out on top. We allow any pop up to come and show what they have to offer, just to give them a stage and opportunity to succeed.
E Da Ref: Hometown Heroes has a lot of local sports team themes. How big of a role does that play, in the surrounding environment?
Melvin Ponder: Between my partners and I, it’s really a Raiders/49er bar. We allow and show every game possible on our five television screen and our 90 inch projector. Being that we are a sports bar we get a lot of patrons that come in and have a great time. We’ve never had any fights. We’ve never had any confrontations with any customers ever. We have the best environment and vibe to watch a game. We all are family here at Hometown Heroes.
E Da Ref: What motivated and inspired you to be a mechanic?
Melvin Ponder: My grandfather pushed me to be a mechanic. He taught me many things about engines, in all types of automobiles. I’ve been very passionate about fixing cars, since I was a very young age. When I got suspended from school, I was forced to perform a brake job or tuneup. And that was at nine years old at least. From then on I just loved working on cars and trucks.
E Da Ref: So you specialize in all vehicles correct?
Melvin Ponder: I specialize in diesel engines. But not just diesel engines, I can repair aerial manlift and construction equipment. I have a separate business called, Mel’s Mobile Heavy Equipment and Auto Repair, where I go out to various companies and fix their machines. I was introduced to heavy machinery, at the young age of 7, when my dad took me on a ride, on a front loader at his job. From then on, I knew I liked heavy equipment as well. Now I am able to repair it.
E Da Ref: So tell me about these massive bike ride gatherings that you attend.
Melvin Ponder: It’s a lifestyle. The bike life that I live by is very fun. I’m able to go out, and ride with my peers, older people and younger people. I have given away two bikes to less fortunate children. I have a bike right now, that I’m going to give away in the very near future to a kid who isn’t able to purchase a bike. I want every kid to be able to ride a bike. Every kid deserves a bike.
E Da Ref: Thanks Melvin I appreciate it. Hometown Heroes Sports Bar is dope. It’s a cool environment. The food is bomb. They have an outside patio with heaters. The drinks are fire! The customer service is superb. I’m a fan of the lumpias they serve, and my favorite drinks are the “NOLA Flavor with an Oakland Booty” and “The Rickey Henderson”. Hometown Heroes was ranked number 1, as The Best Sports Bar in The East Bay by SF Eater. I recommend everybody to check out this spot. They’re still in service throughout the pandemic, and take-out is also available. It is 100 percent guaranteed to satisfy your every need.
The passion Melvin has for his craft in the mechanical field is crucial in this time because there is a lack of skilled professionals, due to the factories being moved out of the hood. He specializes in cars, boats and other vehicles. These skills are vital for our survival. There are a lot of janky, unreliable mechanics out there, that have not been trained. They either studied the manuals but lack the experience; or gained experience through improvising and lack the proper equipment. Contact Melvin Ponder on IG @big_ponder57 DM for details on Mel’s Mobile Auto Repair.
The bike-rides with the children are important too because most kids these days lack avenues of physical recreational activities. We have to get these children outside to get fresh air and sun instead of playing video games all day. Now that we are in a pandemic I know it can be difficult but if we adapt the social distancing protocols it can still be possible. Riding bikes are good for their health and social skills. The interaction between Melvin and the youth, can inspire them to learn how to develop a skill and invest in independent businesses because they see the prime example, in front of their face. They can see that they don’t have to be an athlete or entertainer to be successful.
Being the co-owner of a restaurant, being a mechanical engineer, and being a mentor all ties in because these are essential elements for the survival of a community. People need food and a place to socialize. People need help to make sure their means of transportation functions properly and effectively. People need extracurricular activities for the youth, where they can exercise and be educated through participating in these activities with positive Black role models.