Leon Stapleton, owner of Leon's Thriftway at 4400 E. 39th Street, in Kansas City, Missouri, is the first African American owner of a chain grocery store in Kansas City.
Jackson County Executive, Frank White honored Stapleton at his store with a proclamation commemorating the Golden Anniversary. Stapleton has weathered many tough times over the years with the store and survived to continue serving the community.
In 1968 Stapleton was working in the produce department at a Safeway grocery store in Kansas City, during the height of race riots. He found out protestors were planning to set the Safeway on fire so he told everyone to leave and go home; but he stayed.
"I got a chase lounge and sat in the window when they were coming through there and they saw me and they said aw that's Leon and they never touched that store, but they tore up everything else on Prospect," said Stapleton.
The 91 year old reflected that he was offered the Thriftway when someone threw a bottle in the window and set the store on fire.
"It was the day Martin Luther King was assassinated," he remembered.
Stapleton's customers are more like his fans, remembering every challenge he has overcome, over the years.
Carol Salinas, is a longtime customer at Leon's Thriftway. She lives in Independence; but came to the celebration honoring Stapleton because his life inspires her.
"This is still a neighborhood grocer that is making an honest living and at his golden age it's a blessing," said Salinas.
At 91 years old Stapleton still comes into the store almost everyday to greet his customers.
Cynthia Newsome can be reached at Cynthia.Newsome@kshb.com.