Black History- East Side Businesses
Editor’s note: As organizations and individuals observed Black History Month in February, longtime Salisbury residents W. Frank Jones and Hodge Evans recalled the bustling African-American business community on Salisbury’s East Side, when N.C. law still segregated black and white. They compiled as many names as they could remember.
Sixty-plus years ago, City Hatters operated at 105 S. Main St. The proprietor was Jimmy Wright. Can you imagine a black business concession downtown? City Hatters was managed by Fannie Holmes, who lives on the east side of town.
City Hatters was a thriving enterprise. They made, cleaned and blocked hats; sold magazines; and housed a shoeshine parlor.
In 1953, Wright bought another business out of town, but Holmes continued to manage City Hatters until 1970.
In 1958, the establishment moved to 205 S. Main St., where the business added a shoe repair shop operated by Millard Gamble.
This business employed seven or eight people. When he was still a student, Jim Rippy learned much under the tutelage of Wright and Holmes, and after he graduated from high school, Rippy moved to Washington, D.C., and became the manager of a Hahn Shoe Store.
During this era, a black man could not rent property in the downtown area. Mr. Hedrick, a white man who lived in New York, owned several stores in the area. He provided Wright the opportunity to succeed.
The East Side Community was home to a variety of of skilled workers and small businesses. The following is a list of many of these:
T.J. Barber, Henry Henderson, Tom Pharr, Sonny Grasty, Floyd Wilkins(who also worked as a contractor and sold used cars), , Frank Kelly, Leon Henderson.
Troy McCall, who worked for Kirk Cab, a white company; Harvey Davis and Johnnie Gilmore, drove for Safety, and Gilmore also worked as a brick mason; Alonzo Miller, who worked for Time Taxi; and Jack and Charles Hargrave’s Royal Cab Co.
Theadore Ramsey, Harvy Morant, Presus Worthy, Douglas Sharp and Johnny York.
Lonnie Johnson’s Do Drop In and beauty salon, Beatrice Drain’s Bea’s Come Back, Kain & Classie Wilson Cafe; John Henry Gant Cafe; Irene Salters Cafe, Golden Slipper Restaurant, Pappies Cafe and Carter’s Cafe.
Dr. Evans, dentist; Dr. Jones and his son, Clent, dentists; and Dr. Coleman, Dr. Ezzell, Dr. D.H. Day, all physicians.
Bernice T. Patterson, Mary K. Jones Miller and Ernestine Clawson.
Ruth Rollings, Ezra and Viola Pemberton, Rectified House, Nan Broomfield, Troy McCall and Janie Davis.
Groceries, service stations, drug stores
Able’s Store, Davis’ Store, Robert “Bob” Evans Grocery Store, Hasty Store, Hall’s Service Station, Wood’s Store, Lash’s Grocery Store and Excell Drug Store.
Bessie Woodson Norman, seamstress; Roger and Sarah Donald, wood yard and movers; the Rev. Tom Alexander, shoe repair on East Council Street; Chester Donald, cleaners; Payton & Lewis Cleaners; Lewis Pitts, painter; C.P. Sharpe, painter; Leonard Harris, County Club; Clarence Fleming, electrician; Steve Noble, co-founder of Noble and Kelsey Funeral Service; Robert “Bob” Evans, Hodge Evans and Garland Gaither, individual contractors of Salisbury Post who supervised route carriers; John Alexander, weaver of baskets, chairs, seats, fishing nets, etc.; Evans Dale Complex, skating rink, pool room and swimming pool; and E.V. Taggert’s Washerett.
And then there was the Big V grocery, a business center before its time. The Big V was located at the intersection of Concord Road and South Shaver Street. Diagonally across the street, the Big V auto center, pool room, beauty salon and barber shop were housed in the building owned by George Curlee.
The East Side Community was such a small part of Salisbury, but it had an abundance of skilled workers and small business persons.