The Premier Lifestyle Magazine of Florida's Black Communities
Much as the church was historically the center of the community, the stores and marketplaces played a similar role. If the church was the soul of the community, the local marketplace was its heart. They made available the tools, goods and foods to keep the community thriving. Local stores provided food, work clothes, over-the-counter medicines, childcare needs, etc. The owner also had a vested interest in his customers because 9 times out of 10 his customers were also his neighbors! That’s no longer the case within the Newtown community and the devastating effects of a dis-connected business owner are obvious to all who choose to open their eyes and see the signs.
A stroll down Dr. Martin Luther King Way just some 20 years ago would’ve found you walking past Jenkin’s Grocery store, Bud’s Barbershop, DuBois Wig Shop, Moore’s Grocery, and many more. Business on what we’ve formerly known as 27th Street was good. Businesses sold goods and services that addressed the needs of the consumers. Because traffic was good, prices were good and the economic balance was set.
Over time, these same business owners fell victim to changes in the economic climate, to poor health, to lagging sales. They gave way to the highest bidder, as businesses often do, and the downward spinning wheels of “Missed Opportunities” were set into motion. Other cultures were given the greenlight to leverage their financial clout to our disadvantage. Korean…Indian…even Hispanic business entrepreneurs began providing their services to the community. And everything changed from then on.
Now windows are filled with displays for beers, wines, cigarettes, check-cashing options and ways to send our money around the globe. No one promotes Little Debbie snack cakes, Coca-Cola or Boar’s Head meats, as if we don’t even eat these foods. No one provides a bank kiosk, money order options or provides a central point that mail can be sent or received anymore. No. Those types of services bring the benefit to the consumer not the provider. The equation in place now is to provide products and services that will keep the consumer coming back to buy again and again until the money is gone. And then provide a means to advance funds against a paycheck, with interest, to further the addiction.
Our community stores have become the best way to go broke, stay broke and get addicted. We now have the best opportunities to smoke and drink our way to un-employment than ever. Thanks to what’s being made available. When you can buy a beer for less than a bottle of water, it should raise a flag in your mind.
And, as if to add insult to injury, these business owners offer the worst customer service possible. Often engaging in shouting and cursing matches with their cattle, I mean customer. No “Hello, welcome to…” greeting when you enter, no “thanks for coming!” when you hand over your money in payment for the six-pack of Heineken, pack of Black & Mild, condoms and all-night stay-hard pills. Not even a receipt unless you ask.
If we were to stop shopping at these stores for just one day per week, the economic drain would be enough to shut their doors in less than 3 months! For those who may have missed the breakdown of this shopping break, allow me to illustrate:
I typically spend $5-$10 per day at these stores. If I stopped shopping there on Mondays, that would be a loss of about $7/week. That’s about $50 per month. In 3 months that would be $150. That’s just me. If 9 people also stopped spending their $7 that Monday, that would be a total of $500 per month or $1500 in 3 months. Allow that to happen everyday through the week and you end up with a loss of $3500 per month or $10,500 over 90 days! That’s the effect of just 10 people per day…what if it were 20? or 30?
Three stores along the MLK Way corridor managed to deposit over $2,000,000 in total last year. Where did that money go? Certainly not in the restrooms that we, as customers, don’t even have access to because they’re always out of order…ALWAYS! No, that money has left the community and will never come back. Those business owners don’t live there nor do they invest their money there to see the community get better. Our money pays for their homes on Bird Key, Longboat and Siesta. Our money funds their vacations and puts their kids through school…while we struggle to make sure our kids have lunch money.
While they continue to supply the community with all the tools to destroy ourselves and our future, we continue to supply them with our money. Are we the architects of our own downfall? Honestly, yes we are. Let’s face it. Other cultures recognize that they can get rich from us. They supply us with hair, alcohol, pawn shops and financial services at a premium (payday loans and check cashing fees) and we form lines to pay them. All the while, we never ask them to support us in return. The next time your child has to participate in a fund-raiser for school ask the Korean owner of the hair supply store to buy and ad, I’m just saying. You go there every other week for weave, perm products, shoes, an outfit, etc. The least they could do is give you a 10th of that back. No? Silly me. That money has to go OUT of the community, not back IN!
In a recent conversation with a member of the City of Sarasota’s government, I was asked what I would suggest about this issue. Considering that Vice Mayor Willie Shaw just returned from an investigative junket to High Point, North Carolina to address the issue of crime in Newtown and cleansing the community and creating a safe environment were noted priorities – I would suggest a serious boycott of these businesses! Strategically hit them in their pockets and replace them with owners that care about the community, supplying products that benefit and uplift the consumer.
The choice of products and pricing is that of the business owner to decide. But, if the store on the corner of 17th and 301 Blvd sells the same type of beer and wine products as the convenience store across the street from them, why aren’t their windows plastered with promotions for Budweiser, Michelob and Four Locos? By the way, you can also use their restrooms…the signs are there if you choose to see them.