Justin Womack is the Founder and President of Oath 84, and is this week’s #PeopleOfWilmDE! Read his story below.
“I grew up in New Castle but spent most of my time in the city of Wilmington with friends and played most sports through the inner city leagues. For business, I saw no better place to start than Wilmington. My journey of working in Wilmington began in 2011 when I operated a food truck called Under The Whistle. We were stationed on 7th and king and also did plenty of events from the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival to the Downtown Farmers Market on Rodney Square. My goal had always been to have a brick-and-mortar business downtown and my current building was the exact one I wanted. Since it was occupied by other concepts I thought I would have to go elsewhere, but luckily it opened up and after a few proposals and meetings with the great partners at The Commonwealth Group, I got the opportunity of a lifetime to have my dream location.
Three interesting facts about me are:
1. First generation born in America by way of Trinidad and Tobago
2. I have traveled the US and been part of over 30 different restaurant locations
3. I am also a real estate agent
HBCU Week is recently one of my favorite events in Wilmington. To witness what the HBCU Week team along with the City of Wilmington are doing for the youth in our city is phenomenal. Growing up there was nothing like this for me and my peers, so it is encouraging to see our future leaders being exposed to education and resources to be successful adults. Having two boys of my own I know that positive role models and resources such as HBCU Week are sometimes hard for us to access, but are pivotal to creating a lifestyle of ultimate impact for children and their families.
My ideal night out in Wilmington luckily begins with working at Oath 84. I can’t indulge like our guests, but to see all the smiling faces and celebrations brings absolute joy to me every day, especially during what has been coined as ‘Fridays at Oath.’ Once I complete my night at Oath 84, I enjoy stopping at The Quoin and simmering down with a ‘Born Sinner’, followed by having a cigar at Sikar Lounge. Recently I had a chance to visit Snuff Mill and that experience is one that I see becoming a normal stop for me. I also enjoy a nice morning walk on The Riverfront. It’s a great time to let my mind wander and take in the scenery of the city. I enjoy calm spaces, and nice music with great ambiance and they all give that!
Since opening the restaurant I have met so many great people. Starting a restaurant mid-pandemic was not the easiest, to say the least. I have connected with people and gained resources and information that I was never aware of. The Mayor’s Office and Downtown Visions just to name a few have been overly influential in the success of Oath 84. The genuine professional connections have landed me lifelong friends that I am honored to have.
I continue to choose Wilmington because it has so much to offer. Working in the city, the connections, opportunities, and being a part of making it a great place are literally at my door. Seeing the movement of business, the development of homes, and meeting so many new Wilmingtonians lets me know I am in the right place now and for many years to come.
While opening the restaurant I had the pleasure of seeing Joe Biden and his team prepare for office at The Queen. I had Dr. Biden as my English Professor in college, and she was very influential in my ‘getting myself together.’ Not being the most attentive student, she would find me in hallways, email me and make sure she called on me in class. After a few times falling below her expectations, she kept me after class to let me know her plight for ‘picking on me’ (lol). She let me know that she saw so much potential in me, and whether I wanted to be the early childhood educator I was enrolled to be or if I took the culinary direction, if I put my mind to it she is sure that I would come back to visit her one day to tell her I made it. At that time I had no clue who she would be, but I am grateful that back then she knew what I could be. After that encouraging conversation and a constant push of her saying ‘Justin, keep it together’, I later became a Dean’s List student.
While leaving meetings one day, President Biden stopped the motorcade in front of the restaurant to jump out, take pictures, and say hi to a few business owners and people outside watching his departure. Me being someone that he waved to daily while I was in the doorway when he got out, he gave me a point and said ‘I see you, I see you and good luck getting open!’ After they pulled off, one of his reporters knocked on my door to interview me as to why I got a special point from Joe. I had the chance to tell this story to him about Dr.Biden and he promised to get her the message that Justin Womack from DTCC put his mind to it and was on his way to ‘making it.’ I look forward to the day that President and Dr. Biden take a trip to the Amtrak Building in Wilmington and dine at Oath 84 so she can see the result of what she saw in 18-year-old me.
My advice to Wilmingtonians is to get outside and connect with our great people. We have a lot of influential individuals in a spread of industries! There is something for everyone. Stay, and invite family and friends because it’s the place to be!”