by Shola Clark
Photo by Blanc Photographie
Dennis “D” Wilson, 43 years young, and a Cold Spring neighborhood native, is the creator of Buffalo’s adult night and day-life “playground. ”
The man behind the popular Presidential All Black and The Miami All White Parties, Dennis, co-owner of The Oakk Room eatery bar and lounge, creates an environment unmatched in this city through his successful entrepreneurships. D Wilson offers an array of affairs from simply eating and having drinks at his establishment and various “dress to impress” local upscale events, to traveling to other cities and countries to party VIP style!
It was his personal lifestyle that led him to create venues and activities catering to young African Americans. Never being the type to go out because he didn’t like the “drama,” Dennis stylized his own environment for partying. He reflected on his first party in 1999, a high school event at the Pratt Willert Center, that he says, wasn’t a huge success. He and his partner each made $76.
He later had the opportunity to run the 550 Banquet Hall where he was able to really put his vision in motion and he began promoting his own events. Both The Presidential All Black and The Miami All White Parties started there and morphed into the huge events they are today. With growth, maturity, and partnerships, Dennis continues to enhance these events by adjusting the time it starts and ends, expanding on the variety of things to do while in attendance, and planning to take events from one night to a weekend experience.
The opening of The Oakk Room was a result of the success from his events and promotions. Dennis and business partner Curtis McCutcheon put their resources together to establish ownership in the bar and restaurant. They have both used their education and professional experiences to make The Oakk Room a staple in the community where good food, great company and a positive atmosphere prevails.
“When I walk into a room it’s different being an owner than just a promoter,” Dennis reflected. This also sets the tone for how he conducts business, as he feels a responsibility to be more aware of his behavior, how he conducts himself and handling his patrons responsibly because “people are watching you.” This same energy marks his events as the expectation is set high, attendees anticipate getting dressed up, they feel safe, and respect the environment. “It’s like going to prom every year,” he continued.
Of all his endeavors D. Wilson gets the most fulfillment from putting on events, as well as marketing and promoting them.
The focus of his promotions is showcasing people or businesses. “Sometimes people don’t get their thanks or their shine,” he states. His quarterly publication, Panoramic Magazine, will celebrate its one year anniversary in February. Panoramic is also a tool he uses to “showcase the people.”
-Driven By Success-
A product of both the Catholic and public school systems, D Wilson attended Turner Carroll High and graduated from Riverside High School. He went on to receive his Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Master’s degree in Education from Canisius College. An educator in the Buffalo Public School System for 20 years, he currently teaches print and graphic design at McKinley High School and is the owner of Mr. D Wilson Corporation (graphic design & entertainment). He is the proud husband of Rhonda Wilson, a father and step-dad.
At a young age Dennis was driven by success, as he was always told he would be something and reminded of how smart he was. His goal has always been to make his family proud. Quoting Frederick Douglass he said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Dennis attributes these words of wisdom to his own success. “Any process you go through you’re going to struggle…in school and in your career…but as long as you finish the process everything will turn out for the good.”
At one point Dennis aspired to be a basketball player and someday go to the NBA. He played in high school, Division I with Canisius, and trained to play overseas until he was injured and that ended his career. Fortunately, Dennis had already created a niche for graphic design in high school while working on the yearbook. In college he expanded his self-taught skills and began doing graphics for local clubs and parties, as well as projects for clients internationally.
He gives back to the community and his patrons in the form of monetary gifts to organizations such as D.A.D.S, Little League Teams, Dr. Holley’s Race and Black Nurses Rock, just to name a few. However Dennis firmly believes the most valuable form of giving back is through educating, spreading knowledge, and helping people prepare for their futures. He refers to himself and his partner, Curtis, as liaisons, as they are always available to give advice and guide people in the right direction.
Dennis encourages the urban community to seek ownership. He believes this is the gateway to creating more opportunities for ourselves.
“If we own the venues we can bring in the different entertainment that appeals to us,” he said.
As an advocate for education, he also urges people to become more educated, because in his words, “In order to make money you have to have some type of knowledge.”
Mr. D Wilson is a true testament to what he affirms. His knowledge, experience and self-branding has evolved him into the successful entrepreneur that we are witnessing today.