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The evolution of the National Black Chamber of Commerce – Part 7

Beyond the Rhetoric

By Harry C. Alford & Kay DeBow | 8/8/2019, 12:47 p.m.

Leaving Detroit to take up new residence in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area was quite a contrast indeed. The crime ridden, economically challenged “Motor City” would be missed for the night life and Motown heritage.  The “Twin Cities” were modern, clean and tranquil. The subject of “race” would hardly ever come up. It was the perfect place for Kay to begin her long healing period.  Our apartment was “Disability Friendly” which was important as I would be on the road in my eight - state district visiting and training my eight sales representatives three to four days per week.  Dealing with department stores versus grocery stores was night and day. Grocery store personnel were close to teamsters in their approach and mentality. Department store executives were the “fashion type” - educated and professional.

Regardless of the above, we were in transition mode. Our wedding date was set and the plans for settling down and becoming entrepreneurs were in full swing.  First would be venue and second would be what form of entrepreneurship. In our travels, I viewed Indianapolis as a perfect place to raise a family and smoothly blend into a solid middle- class community.  It was Kay’s hometown and she resisted the thought for a while. I would finally wear her objection down. Besides, her family bonds were strong, and the people of Indy were easy and peaceful. It was a very far away from Detroit.  A great place to start a family!

It was set. We would move to Indy whenever the settlement from the MGM Fire lawsuit was completed.  Ideally, I would convince my employers at Hanes Hosiery to transfer me to the St. Louis District.  That would encompass Indy and living there would not be disruptive. My productivity was great, and I was very confident of my persuasive skills (convincing my superiors to go along with the move).

What was going to be our entrepreneurial endeavor once we decided to go independent?  A new industry was booming. It was home video. Video stores were in their infancy and customer growth was exponentially growing at record rates.  It was the greatest thing since fast food stores. If Hanes rejected my proposal, we would jump in immediately with settlement money to cover our expenses until the new business was up to “speed”.

The time to make our move to Indianapolis finally came upon us. We cut a deal with a rising franchisor known as National Video. Being very anxious we bought two franchises.  The first store would be immediate and the next one would follow in 18 months. Hanes Hosiery? I overestimated my persuasive skills.  We parted ways amicably. Kay and I bought a five thousand square foot home in a new Indianapolis subdivision – Normandy Farms. It was simply lovely.

The transition was simple for Kay as Indianapolis is her hometown and her relatives were very close. The Stuart Family (her mother’s side) was prestigious and the DeBow Family produced a war hero - Tuskegee Airman.

Our first video store was on the westside of Indy and the second was on the northeast side of town. It was an instant success! People were going crazy about renting video movies and watching them at home with their loved ones.  There was a big delay in top movies leaving the theatre and the waiting time for cable television to offer them. That void would be filled by video stores.