Jackson County Executive Frank White went to Leon’s Thriftway on Wednesday to honor the store owner for nearly a half-century of service to Kansas City’s East Side community.
Leon Stapleton, 91, the owner of what might be the country’s oldest black-owned grocery, still goes to work everyday and still helps people home with their groceries.
While White was going through a long string of “Whereas,” Stapleton leaned forward on his stool to check out the bottleneck at the front door of the store at 4400 E. 39th St.
The presentation crowd was blocking shoppers from getting in.
That’s not how Stapleton stayed in business all these years. He fought off racism, poverty and competition from fancy supermarkets. Can’t let an award get in the way now.
“I’m 91 and I’m still here, but I always need more business,” he said when White was through.
But he was pleased with the recognition and glad to see White, the former Royal great who grew up in the neighborhood.
“We used to practice ball over in that park, and I got my haircut there in that shop,” White said in the parking lot before the ceremony.
“Leon took over this store right after the riots in ’68 after the King assassination, and he’s still here,” White said. “Coming to work every day. He’s done so much good for this neighborhood.”
Part of the proclamation read: “Leon’s Thriftway is a fixture in the neighborhood, serving community residents who otherwise might not have a place to shop.”
Donald Bradley: 816-234-4182