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Remembering the Legacy of Frank Thomas

Remembering the Legacy of Frank Thomas 2|The Chamber Legacy of Frank Thomas

The Chamber Legacy of Frank Thomas

When I say that my work at the Chamber is to live out our Chamber WHY of a thriving and prosperous West Michigan for all, it may seem like a novel idea. But I didn’t start the fire. As the Director of Inclusion at the Grand Rapids Chamber, I stand on the shoulders of people like Frank Thomas, business owner and former Board Chair of our organization. What I do is honoring the work of Thomas (and others) who opened doors and paved the way to create great inclusion and a thriving and prosperous West Michigan for ALL.

Today, we remember and celebrate the life of Frank Thomas – the embodiment of a pioneering entrepreneur and civic-minded leader. Not only did Thomas and his partner operate the first black-owned grocery store in Grand Rapids, but they also grew it to be the largest such operation in the entire Midwest. The positive impact of Madison Food Town rippled beyond the business and its employees and was beneficial to all in the surrounding area.

Thomas came to the Chamber in 1982 to see what type of resource could be provided after purchasing the store, but it was our organization that was fortunate to benefit from his many contributions. After being engaged with the organization for twelve years, Thomas became the first non-white male to lead the organization as Chairman of the Board of Directors in 1994. Although he was a first in that regard, Thomas saw himself as much of an advocate and voice for small businesses and his understanding of the challenges they face.

A Black History Month Salute To Two GR Business PioneersThe Grand Rapids Chamber acknowledges the numerous contributions of Mr. Frank Thomas to the City of Grand Rapids and the business community.

It is clear that Mr. Thomas left a lasting imprint on Grand Rapids, the broader business community and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. We are surely a stronger community because of his efforts. I am thankful for his service to the Chamber and our community. I gratefully remember his contributions along with his family. Thanks to Pastor Nathaniel Moody for inspiring the search and Joshua Lunger for gathering the information on this hidden GR business figure.

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