North Burdick Grocery and Market
First Black-Owned Business
“These local grocery stores were much more than food outlets. They were places where neighbors connected with one another, shared news, learned important life lessons, found support, and built a strong sense of community.”–Museon, Winter 2018, p.7
Established in 1949, the North Burdick Grocery and Market (1907 N. Burdick) was the first African American-owned and operated business in Kalamazoo. For two decades, located on the west side of the street in a one-story, brick building (that Willie built himself), Willie and Lucile Stinson were the well-known proprietors of the grocery that served the needs of the residents of the Northside Neighborhood, still a mostly Dutch, working class neighborhood.
Willie, originally from Alabama, migrated to Kalamazoo after being stationed at Fort Custer during the war. After being refused a loan from local banks, Stinson befriended Tom Schuring, founder of Portage Insurance. Schuring loaned Stinson $2000 to help facilitate the development of the store. The store was known for their fresh fruits and vegetables, a by-product of the garden the Stinson’s maintained on the property. The Stinson’s were also noted for their kindness, often accepting an “I owe you” slip from a nearby factory worker who was running short of money.
Willie passed away in 1968 and Lucile in 2000. Lucile closed the market in 1971. Both were active in the Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, with Lucile serving on the board of the Douglass Community Association.
Kalamazoo Gazette, 2 February 1949
“Lessons learned: Stinson’s North Burdick Grocery and Market”
Museon, Winter 2018, p.6
“Stinson’s North Burdick Grocery and Market”
SW Michigan Spark, January 2019, p.16