In a day and time when most of the news we hear is negative, it is a pleasure to meet a business owner like Bobby Butts. You can call him Mr. Butts or Pastor Butts because he is not just a business owner-he is also senior pastor of New Philadelphia Christian Ministry Church of God in Christ.
Pastor Butts recently opened “Our Community Mart,” the only black-owned grocery store on Chicago’s West Side. The grand opening took place last month with much community support. Pastor Butts says he opened the store because he was tired of the current conditions facing African-Americans.
In a community where many are plagued by poverty, unemployment and a lack of education, there is a ray of hope. Walking or driving in the 200 block of North Cicero Avenue, Our Community Mart is hard to miss. The front of the building is painted red, black, and green-the colors of the African-American flag. It was Marcus Garvey who said, “Show me a people without a flag, and I’ll show you a people with no pride.”
At Our Community Mart, cultural pride is evident throughout. Customers can stop by to pick up such staples as milk, eggs, canned goods, batteries and other household items, but they leave with much more. Pastor Butts says his vision for the store is for African-Americans to understand the importance of having some control in the economics of their community. He recognizes the financial gain that comes from owning his own business, but he says he has a greater mission: to bring pride and unity back to the community.
People who enter the store, immediately notice that, unlike many other establishments in this neighborhood, there is no bullet-proof glass. This makes customers feel welcome and establishes a sense of trust.
Pastor Butts is not only a businessman, he’s also a family man. He is married and has children. His two nephews also work in the family business. Nicholas Butts, 24, and Samuel Armor, 22, say their uncle has shown them a different side. They have found their place in the community and know they have a lot to offer. They want to some day open their own business, such as a clothing store or a laundromat. The store is managed by Janet Milford who brings 14 years of retail grocery store experience.
Rev. Butts says his own life speaks volumes. Having been incarcerated at one time, he wants to show other young people that a less-than-perfect past does not mean you can’t have a bright future. He wants his place of business to be a place where young people can stop in and just talk. That, he says, could be a turning point in someone’s life.
In time, Pastor Butts hopes to expand his business. He owns several other storefronts in the block and plans to open other stores that can serve as anchors in the community. Our Community Mart is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.