Longtime local grocery store owner honored for his dedication and service to community

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Kansas City grocery store owner was honored Wednesday for decades of community service work.

From desegregating the local grocery industry to helping people who might not otherwise have a place to shop, Leon's Thriftway has been a fixture in the community since 1968.

Another fixture is Leon Stapleton himself.

Today, the 91-year-old was honored for his achievements and a lifetime of work. Jackson County Executive Frank White presented him with an award.

His proud family and plenty of loyal customers were there to celebrate.

In 1968, Leon became the first African American in Kansas City to own a grocery store chain.

His shop was firebombed during riots following Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's assassination.

Leon also faced discrimination during his first day working for a local Safeway store when his boss introduced him to his all white coworkers.

Frank White said he's impressed by the way Leon overcame barriers of racism, poverty and competition.

For him to have the initiative to take his training, get a small business loan, buy his own Thriftway store, and endure this long in this community, I mean the type of service that they provide here, stores used to provide," White said.

Leon's store has also survived, while other inner-city stores have folded after losing customers to big box retailers.