How a Houston nightclub owner transformed his struggling business into a ground-breaking supermarket

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What was once a nightclub in Houston, Texas, just got quite the renovation. District 1960 is now District Market Green Grocer.

Robert Thomas now owns the property, which used to be home to Megan Thee Stallion (and Moneybagg Ya) This space is now full of fruits, vegetables, frozen goods, and a busy juice shop.

The club’s last call came during the pandemic shut down when officials informed Thomas that his business was not essential. This meant that there were no more customers or income.

“It hurt,”Robert Thomas, District Market Green Grocer’s owner, stated. “It made me rethink who I am, what my purpose is.”

A new idea emerged: to unify people and create a platform for Black sellers. He’s now achieving his goal, even though he doesn’t have a background as a grocer.

“I’m learning as I go,”He stated. “I’m learning as I go in. Right now, everything in here comes from a Black vendor.”

To be exact, forty of them. You can sell meat, produce, or spices.

Emory Davis, owner of Mymark61 Cattle Co. He sells grass-fed beef. Because his small business cannot handle the volume of larger grocery stores, he is starting small.

“This is a good outlet because you’re able to grow with him,” Davis explains. “He’s starting. And then once he gets another location, you know, hopefully, you can grow with that, and then you’ll be able to supply that next location.”

Robb and Jessica Tannan, owners of Signature Sudz, started making their own soaps and solvents for their laundry business after supplies dried out earlier in the pandemic.

“To be able to start at these markets and build the customer base, build the product recognition,” Jessica notes, “that’s super important. And to do it with a community like what Robert is building is just super. I mean, it’s just a win.”

Particularly since the pandemic’s dramatic impact on Black-owned business. Black business ownership dropped 41 percent since COVID-19’s arrival — the highest of any racial group.  

Robert and other business owners hope that stores like his, as well as opportunities like this, will help to close the gap.