Looking Back At Kalamazoo’s First Black Owned Grocery
Parades are orchestrated for many reasons but most of them are holidays. Memorial Day, Independence Day, easter, Christmas, and more trains are celebrated yearly. Another instance of yearly parades is professional sports teams who win the championship, as they spend the time sharing the accomplishment with their fans and community. Lastly, sometimes you're just simply celebrating existence.
Kalamazoo has the Doo-Dah parade which is just a special parade for the city where people dress up in crazy-themed costumes and throw out candy to all the joyful children. Then, back in the day there used to be a parade that came through the Northside of Kalamazoo, celebrating life and the community of Kalamazoo. These parades helped people see all of the local businesses that have sprouted, including the first black-owned grocery store.
Way back in 1949 as Kalamazoo was still growing as a city, Stinson's North Burdick Grocery and Market was opened at 1907 North Burdick St. Stinson's wasn't just owned by Willie and Lucile Stinson, but was built by Willie himself. Willie and Lucile made history and started a trend as they were the first black-owned and operated business in Kalamazoo, serving the Northside Neighborhood.
Willie made his way to Kalamazoo after being stationed at Fort Custer for the war, he built the one-story brick building by himself after being refused a loan from several banks. Tom Schuring and Willie became good friends leading to Schuring loaning Stinson $2,000 to jump-start the store.
Willie would go on to marry his wife, Lucile. They ran the store together for years where they were known for their fruits and vegetables, which were tended to in their garden in the yard of the store. They were known for their kindness and customer service as they often took "I owe you" slips for customers in need.
They were pillars of the community as they were both members of the AME Allen Chapel Church and Lucile served on the board at the Douglas Community Association. Willie unfortunately passed in 1968 and Lucile closed the market in 1971 before she passed in 2000.