First Black-Owned Supermarket in San Diego Struggles to Survive

By Mark Trumbull, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, May 2, 1994 | Go to article overview
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First Black-Owned Supermarket in San Diego Struggles to Survive


Mark Trumbull, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


EVEN before he was a teenager, Leroy Brown was in the grocery business. He was hired by a small Chinese-owned grocery to stop his peers from shoplifting candy. "I was the guy with the big mouth," he recalls. "I was given an opportunity to do something right."

Now, after almost three decades of full-time supermarket work, Mr. Brown is seeing the fulfillment of a long-standing dream: In March, he opened his own store. Located in a multi-ethnic, low-rise neighborhood, Brown's Town and Country Market is the city's first black-owned supermarket, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The market, which just ended a two-week grand opening, is part of an increasingly successful segment of businesses in the United States: those owned by African-Americans. "Coming On Strong" is the headline in the June issue of Black Enterprise, which features the magazine's annual list of the top 100 industrial/service companies and top 100 automobile dealerships owned by blacks. These firms, in industries ranging from high-tech to food to beauty aids, surpassed $10 billion in annual sales in 1993 for the first time ever - a 13.9 percent increase over 1992. In 1992, these companies reported a 14.1 percent revenue growth over the previous year.

The progress is not limited to companies with millions of dollars in sales. A US Census Bureau study found a 38 percent rise in the number of black-owned companies, to 424,000, between 1982 and 1987. An updated study is expected soon.

"Entrepreneurship is in style" among blacks, says Alfred Edmond, managing editor of Black Enterprise in New York.

Still, only about 3 percent of all businesses in the US are owned by blacks. The recent recession and restructuring in the economy hit some of them hard. Many weaker companies went under, but those that persevered have become leaner and more productive.

While minority set-asides in government contracts and community-based lending programs are important, Mr. Edmond says, the road to economic empowerment depends more on blacks gaining business know-how.

"Eighty percent of all American businesses operate without a business plan," he says "This, not lack of capital, is one of the primary reasons why most small businesses fail within the first five years.

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