At a Jewel-Osco grocery store in south suburban Homewood Saturday, Eugene Blaylock offered shoppers a sample of his own barbecue sauce poured over smoked sausage.
“One lick and that’s it,” he said, pitching the sauce at a stand set up for a special Black History Month event put on annually by Jewel-Osco.
“Taste of Black History” is a month long recognition of the Black vendors whose products are available on the shelves at local Jewel stores. As many as 20 vendors travel to stores on the South Side and in the south suburbs giving shoppers a taste of the vendors’ products. This year’s event, which marked the 13th year for TOBH, started Feb. 2 at Jewel on 183rd Street and Kedzie Avenue in Homewood and will end Sunday after the program at the store on 95th Street and Stony Island Avenue.
Blaylock told the Chicago Citizen at the Jewel located at 17705 S. Halsted in Homewood that he had tried for a long time to get his proprietary, “no-fat, no-cholesterol” barbecue sauce in other grocery stores but to no avail. However, for the last six years he’s been stocked at Jewel. The entrepreneur is pleased that the grocer offers the special time for Black vendors to offer samples of their products.
“How would customers know that we’re African American vendors if we don’t get a chance to showcase our products?” he said.
Jacqueline Grant was at the Homewood store Saturday as well. She was offering samples of black beans and rice, black-eyed peas, sweet potato pie and seasoning from the Grandma Maud’s brand. She told the Chicago Citizen that the brand’s owner, Paul Freja, has had the products in Jewel for 15 years.
“For (Jewel) to present our products in all the stores, not just in our community, is wonderful,” said Grant. “It lets everyone know the products are here and to patronize us so (we) stay in business.”
In addition to numerous in-store sampling events featuring Black vendor products, Jewel-Osco hosted a private reception Thursday at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Drive. Guests there were treated to a variety of dishes that were prepared using Black vendors’ products.
Additionally, Jewel-Osco awarded $20,000 in grants to four community organizations:
Hunger Relief Awards were presented to Martin Temple A.M.E. Zion Church for its Spoonful of Hope Soup Kitchen and Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church for its Community Table Food Pantry; GreenNet Chicago was given the Environmental Stewardship Award; and Girls in the Game received the Nutrition Education Award.
Angelica’s Bakery picked up the Jewel-Osco 2012 “Vendor of the Year Award” for “its outstanding work in brand development and marketing.”
“Our African American vendors are important members of the Jewel-Osco family, and they are vital to our success,” said Brian Huff, president of Jewel-Osco. “We want to thank them for helping us meet the diverse needs of our customers every day, and we hope consumers recognize that by purchasing African American vendor products they are supporting these wonderful entrepreneurs.”
By Rhonda Gillespie