Meet a man who bought Pine Bluff cheap
Here’s a story I forgot if it was reported locally.
Read all about it in an account on Max Read’s sub-stack page. This is an interview with a man named John Fenley, originally from Utah.
Through this account, Fenley made money by selling a patent. He went looking for a small town with a walkable downtown and a college to establish a remote workplace, specifically a warehouse for personal CD collections that he would digitize and store in the cloud. . So ! In Pine Bluff, he found property for sale on the cheap, including a vacant 17-acre warehouse (the former Varco Pruden facility) which he purchased for $300,000.
He says he was aware of Pine Bluff’s difficulties, including declining population and crime.
“I’ve seen statistics,” he said over the phone. “And I was like, ‘Oh, well, I have a one in X chance of getting robbed every year or something. Right? Yeah. But that’s average, well, I’m a huge target. I didn’t really take it into account, I guess.
He went ahead. There were problems, he said – thieves raided his warehouse for scrap metal and other crimes, resistance to some of his plans from the city government. But he moved to Pine Bluff and bought 84 plots of land. You can see all 81 entries on county tax records by searching for his name here.
According to the records, the story of the plunging value of the former Varco property that initially appealed to Fenley:
Max Read found Fenley optimistic about Pine Bluff.
“It’s a pretty town,” he told me of Pine Bluff. “It’s as if they were trying to fix things. New York was terrible in the 80s. Everything they said about Pine Bluff now, they said about New York in the 80s! And I really wish I could have bought real estate in New York in the 80s!
He also told Read:
“Only time will tell if it was a good idea,” he told me. “I mean, yeah, I’ve had, you know, thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars of loss. But the upside could still be millions and millions of dollars. Because I still own a warehouse.
A YouTube video is said to have been made by Fenley of his warehouse.
It seems none of Fenley’s business plans took off at Pine Bluff. Max Read says Fenley is considering moving back to Utah. Not that he abandoned the Land of Opportunity. Read the reports:
I asked Fenley what his long term plans were. He hesitated. “There is a hotel available at auction right now that I bid on three weeks ago. There is one week left in the auction. If no one bids on this hotel against me, I will buy a hotel for 31 $400,” he said. The hotel is in Pine Bluff with good freeway access. It’s been vacant since 2019. “It would be really awesome to own a hotel, have parties on roof and turn the whole top floor into a penthouse for me. You know? Like, it’s, like, how would I not want to do that?”
There is a lot more in Read’s article. Check it out.
There are plenty of results on Fenley on Google, but no local sources. The Verge wrote about his acquisition of the assets of Murfie, which stored personal CD and vinyl collections in 2019. His company, Crossies, needed to digitize those collections and he told Read he shipped those CDs to Pine Bluff . The redevelopment was a slow process, with apparent conflicts with the municipal authorities, which he began to register.