Hobson City-rooted Gordon McGrue helped bring new life to his hometown with the opening of a new business Monday.
Hobson City officials and residents alike flocked to a historical building on Martin Luther King Drive to watch the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Aussie’s Quick Mart, a small convenience store. It wasn’t just the opening of a local store to this community, McGrue and others said. It was a symbol of hope.
McGrue said he felt a sense of responsibility to give back to what was said to be “a run down town.” More business means more jobs for locals — McGrue said the shop will employ three people — and more tax revenue for the town.
“A lot of folks are looking forward to it,” McGrue said. He said he wanted a place where the community and the kids could come together.
The new store will be open seven days a week, with hours starting at 6 a.m. most days, noon on Sundays. It provides milk, bread, eggs, drinks, snacks, and other small convenient items.
McGrue was born and raised in Hobson City, though he left the town for Georgia and returned to live in Oxford about eight years ago. He said the town had a number of thriving businesses that had closed since he left, and that it filled him with sadness to see what looked like a town “screaming out for help.”
McGrue said he is hopeful that this means more business opportunities for the town.
Hobson City Mayor Alberta McCrory was there to help cut the ribbon. Wearing a mask and a pinstriped suit, she braved the 90-degree heat with more than a dozen fellow residents to welcome the new business.
“Communities need businesses in order to operate and thrive.” McCrory said. “Without businesses, the community dies out.”
The main source of tax revenue when the city was thriving came from a bingo hall that burned down and a sewing plant that closed in the ’90s.
The previous owner and predecessor to a lot of the town’s business was Cleve Holloway, who has since died but whose wife, Maudine, was present at the ceremony. A mural of Cleve Holloway with the words “Be the change that you wish to experience on this planet,” was displayed upon the building.
Local resident Antwon Fegans said he believes the store will be big for Hobson City. Asked if he felt the shop will bring people together, he said yes.
“Being an all-Black community, Black-owned, Black business operated, that’s big. That shows kids that is growing up in the community now that you can one day own something.”
That idea resonates with Hobson City’s history. According to The Encyclopedia of Alabama, it was the only city in the state of Alabama governed entirely by African Americans upon its incorporation in 1899.
The city was established after Oxford redrew its town lines to exclude a neighborhood called Mooree Quarter to prevent its mostly Black residents — not yet entirely disenfranchised by the late-19th century backlash to Reconstruction — from voting in elections, according to historical sources. The community decided to set up their own town and named it Hobson City, after a famed Spanish-American War naval hero of the time, and a city was born.
That same sense of togetherness and fellowship could be seen Friday as townspeople gathered in support of the new shop.
Asked why now was the time to open a store, McGrue said it was a feeling he got.
“Like it’s time to come home,” he said.