How 1 Houston, Texas, Nightclub Owner Transformed His Struggling Business Into a Groundbreaking Supermarket

Robert Thomas once hosted artists like Megan Thee Stallion and Moneybagg Yo. Now his space is full of frozen goods, fruits, and veggies.

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

Robert Thomas owns the location, which once hosted artists like Megan Thee Stallion and Moneybagg Yo. Now the space is full of frozen goods, fruits, veggies, and a busy juice bar.

Last call for the club came during the pandemic shutdown when officials told Thomas his business was non-essential. That meant no more customers and no more income.

"It hurt," Robert Thomas, owner of District Market Green Grocer, said. "It made me rethink who I am, what my purpose is."

Then, a new idea sprang up: to unite people while creating a platform for Black vendors. And he's achieving his goal without having a background in being a grocer.

"I'm learning as I go," he said. "I'm learning as I go in. Right now, everything in here comes from a Black vendor."

Forty of them, to be exact. Selling things like meat, produce, and spices.

Like Emory Davis, who owns Mymark61 Cattle Co and sells grass-fed meat. He says his small business can't handle the volume required for bigger grocery stores, so before he makes it big, he's 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."

Especially since the pandemic has had a staggering impact on Black-owned businesses. Black business ownership dropped 41 percent since COVID-19's arrival — the highest of any racial group.  

But business owners like Robert hope stores like his and opportunities like these help close that gap.

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