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Owner of Calhoun Foods Gregory Calhoun checks up on some of the locally grown produce in his grocery chain. Calhoun’s celebrated its 25th anniversary this month and is historically the first African American-owned grocery chain in the United States. --Ashley Johnson
Owner of Calhoun Foods Gregory Calhoun checks up on some of the locally grown produce in his grocery chain. Calhoun’s celebrated its 25th anniversary this month and is historically the first African American-owned grocery chain in the United States. -- Ashley Johnson

Calhoun’s celebrates 25 years of community service

Published 9:08pm Friday, August 16, 2013

The first African American-owned grocery chain in the Southeast, which is rooted in Selma, celebrated its 25th anniversary this week.

Calhoun Foods, established in 1984 by Gregory Calhoun, has kept their grocery franchise in Selma while other ones have come and gone. The store location in Selma has historical significance in both the civil rights movement and the Civil War and what those at the store are doing by way of improving health in Dallas County through education is considered historical by some — including the U.S. President.

Calhoun said the greatest part of the business is being involved in the community in Selma as it was the second store purchased of 15 across the South.

“We are constantly staying involved in the community and we try to give back to the youth and the senior citizens and churches,” Calhoun said, and added his business stays involved with projects like raising money for sickle cell anemia research and helping churches that shop with them.

The White House recognized Calhoun Foods in 2011 as one of several grocery chains that participates actively in the Let’s Move initiative with First Lady Michelle Obama.

Calhoun was invited to the White House and is now in a contract with the Lets Move program to sell fresh produce and educate young school-age children about eating healthy — something the store has done for 25 years.

“Well, we have always done a program with the young kids where we take them in the store and show them all of the fresh produce,” Jimmie Coleman III, a supervisor for Calhoun Foods who started in the business as a teenage grocery bagger. “We give the kids who come in on field trips apples and oranges to take home and teach them about eating fresh produce. It is something we have always done, but now we use it as part of the Let’s Move program.”

When Calhoun purchased the building, then Big Bear, in 1984 on J.L. Chestnut Boulevard from Dick Sanders, Calhoun implanted another principle they still practice today. They buy and sell produce from local farmers to give the farmers a venue to make money.

“When Mr. Calhoun took over the store, one of the things he did was buy whole trucks of food from local farmers and that is something we still do today,” Coleman said.

Calhoun said all of their produce grown by local farmers is USDA approved and their sale of local items gives small, independent farmers an outlet where they can carry their product.

“We are a small, independent company so we want other individuals and small companies to work with us,” Calhoun said.

The grocery chain in 1984 built up to 15 stores. After the chain sold several divisions, Calhoun Foods now owns three stores, including Selma. The Selma location was the site where the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department met prior to their stand off on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday in 1965. The location also sits on the site of where the first Union cannons were fired into Selma during the Civil War.

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