Before Robert Thomas opened a supermarket in Houston, the area had no Black-owned supermarket. However, on Black Friday, the city’s only Black-owned supermarket opened its doors for the first time.
The supermarket was previously a nightclub which Thomas owned and operated. When the pandemic closed his nightclub business, he decided to convert it into District Market Green Grocer. Thomas had run the nightclub for five years.
“This was a club before and I renovated it. They shut me down with the pandemic,” Thomas told KHOU 11. “That is my vision, to vegetate the Black community.”
Inside the store located at 3337 Cypress Creek Parkway, one will find fruits, veggies, and various products from about 40 vendors. And they are all locally produced and Black-owned. The shop also has Black-owned washing powder, spices, and herbs, sauces.
“Right now I have over 30 black vendors,” Thomas told Fox 26. “We sell 100% coconut soy candles. We also have enticing essentials bath salts. We also have wax warmers, wax melts and it’s all handmade here in Houston,” said Sparkle Johnson Co-Owner of Arousing Aromas.
Thomas is a serial entrepreneur. In the past, he had tried his hands on various businesses. He started working in customer service for years before venturing into entrepreneurship in 2012.
He owned a Cajun restaurant for roughly five years before closing it down after his lead cook aged and could no longer handle the demand, according to Houston Chronicle. He then started his nightclub, District 1960, until COVID-9 forced it to close in 2020.
After the closure of his nightclub, someone told him to get into a grocery business. He mulled over the suggestion but did not act until he realized there was no Black-owned supermarket in the Houston area.
“I noticed a few things missing— the Black farmers,” the 45-year-old told Houston Chronicle. “And I’m wondering why we never see them anywhere. Where’s the Black man that makes ketchup? The mayonnaise? They are nowhere to be found.”
Thomas said his grocery stores will continue to feature more Black-owned products and goods, including other minority-owned goods.
“I want to create opportunities for Black people to make more products and put them in a place where they can sell it,” he said. “Right now the average Black people are realtors, lawyers, doctors, dentists, but if you want to put Black people in the means of the everyday need, it creates room to industrialize.”