Kansas City businesses notice boost in sales, credit ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Black businesses are getting a boost from the "Black Lives Matter" civil rights movement as more African Americans are making a conscious effort to spend their dollars in their own community.

"I'm gaining customers," said Leon Stapleton, owner of the oldest black-owned grocery in the nation. "I see people that I have never seen before. So I can see that it's taking hold."

Last year, Leon's Thriftway was on the verge of closing. But in recent weeks Stapleton says he's getting a lot of new customers, who are telling him that black businesses matter.

The 91-year-old grocer is at the store every day to help his customers. And he estimates the civil rights campaign has sales up 15 percent at the store in recent weeks. With larger, fancier supermarkets all around, African American ministers also are bringing their congregations to shop at Leon's to support someone who has helped others in the neighborhood.

"I’m surrounded by Wild Woody’s or Happy Foods," Stapleton said. "Sunfresh is 7 or 8 blocks away. I have an Aldi 8 or 9 blocks away. I got a Family Dollar about 4 blocks away. So I am surrounded by grocery stores. I have had a hard time surviving here."

New customers are boosting Stapleton's confidence. He's says if the growth of his business continues, he's talking with barbecue baron Ollie Gates about building a bigger store to continue serving people in the urban core.

In many cities where the corner store has disappeared, African Americans have long said it's more important in poor neighborhoods to be able to buy food within walking distance.