Black on Broad: Operating a minority-owned business in Rome

Barbara Ware, Joe Murray the only black business owners on N. Broad Street

by Brittany Strickland

ROME, Ga. – Barbara Ware is black. As a business owner on Rome’s Broad Street, this makes her unique: a female, black sole proprietor.

Ware owns Kaleido-Sno at 414 Broad St., a restaurant that specializes in New Orleans-style shaved ice.

When Ware determined to launch her own business in 1991, the bank loans available to white, monied males simply weren’t an option. She had heard about redlining in Rome and knew she had to bootstrap to open Kaleido-Sno’s doors. After nearly a quarter-century serving snow cones and jambalaya, among other specialty items, her business has to be considered a success.

Barbara Ware, proprietor of Kaleido-Sno

“I guess [Kaleido-Sno] has lasted so long, really, from me just being strong-willed and determined. That’s how I’ve stayed afloat,” Ware said.

Before she opened the business, Ware helped clients with word processing, developing resumes and doing data entry.

“Once computers became so popular, people didn’t need me to do that kind of thing for them; it became common,” she said. She said she knew she would need some other form of income.

When determining what kind of business to open, Ware said she knew that people would enjoy shaved ice, and that snow cones would allow her children to work with her in the shop during the busy seasons in spring and summer.

Hear Barbara Ware tell her story
Reporter: Ryder McEntyre
Writer: Brittany Strickland
Producer: Chelsea Hoag

Lack of opportunity for black youths

Ware said that then, in the early 1990s, most of Rome’s minority children ended up working in fast food. With Kaleido-Sno, her children had an opportunity most did not and learned valuable life skills working side-by-side with her.

Ware has three kids: Tselane, Maurice and Anthony. Anthony was manager of the shop when it opened, during his senior year at Darlington. Tselani was 14 and Maurice 20 at the time.

Getting the business off the ground often was discouraging, she said. On one of her visits to the small bsuiness development center, she remembers being told, “Minorities are expected to go into businesses like cooking or cleaning,” she said. She was told “I  would have problems opening up a business like this.”

But Ware knew better.

“ I have a master’s degree,” she said. “I went to college. Why should I go into a cleaning business?”

Rome entrepreneur Barbara Ware opened Kaleido-Sno with her children in mind.
Reporters: Chelsea Hoag and Brittany Strickland
Producers: Blake Hudson and Chelsea Hoag

Black flight from Rome

Ware said it is easy to see why so many children – and black children in particular – are discouraged from entrepreneurship.

“My son left Rome. Both my children did,” she said. “They didn’t see anything here for them. They don’t recognize there’s still a reason to fight, so they go where it’s easier. There are no role models for blacks here. I mean, go to a bank and you won’t see a black teller. I think there’s one black lawyer [in Rome]. If kids don’t see when they can get out of the rut, they give up.”

The data on Rome’s businesses back up Ware’s experience: She is the exception that proves the rule. Rome has approximately 3,700 firms, according to the census data on businesses from 2007. The total number of firms owned by blacks was so small that it did not register statistically, instead noted as “suppressed” in the census report.

In fact, the statistics for all of Rome’s minority-owned businesses in Rome are reported as either “S” for suppressed or as “F” for “fewer than 25.” The total number of the city’s firms that are owned by women, however, is reported at 24%. This basic math shows that at least 75% of the city’s businesses are majority-owned by white males.

For the entire state of Georgia, one out of five firms are owned by black proprietors, according to the census reports.

Ware said she doesn’t see these metrics changing any time soon.

“People can say things have changed, but what is that old saying?” she asked. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Barbara Ware goes from doing data entry to owning a business on Broad.
Reporters: Chelsea Hoag and Brittany Strickland
Producers: Blake Hudson and Chelsea Hoag

‘Sole’ proprietor Joe Murray

Just down and across the street from Kaleido-Sno, in a tiny shoe shop that doubles as a local hangout, you can find Joe Murray, one of the few black, male business owners in Rome. Murray owns and runs Blue Ribbon Shoe Shop with his son, Don. The two are the only employees of the store

Joe Murray (right), owner of Blue Ribbon Shoe Shop, with his son, Don.

As you walk in, you cannot help but notice the shoes covering the floor, purses and handbags hung from the ceiling, and an old black Singer sewing machine that sits next to the wall.

A Singer sewing-machine Murray still uses.

“I mean, look at all the junk,” Don Murray said. “We’ve got a lot, so I think we’re doing pretty good. That means we have a lot to fix, and that’s good.”

Summers, however, are difficult.

“People are wearing sandals, and they aren’t really the type of shoes that have to be repaired.”

Don’s father, Joe, was only 13 years old when he began working shining shoes. He learned the trade from his older brother, George.

“They had to go to work,” Don said. “When their Dad passed, they didn’t have a choice. I remember hearing stories of how my Dad used to get 20 cents a shine. That’s crazy.”

Uncle George is the former owner of the now-defunct Shoe Hospital, once located at 108 Broad.

The Blue Ribbon Shoe Shop on Broad Street.

Joe said he never knew he would own a shoe shop, too, but when George passed away, he took over. Almost 18 years later, the shop’s landlord decided to sell the building. Fortunately, at about that same time, the family of DiPrima’s, a shoe shop in town, decided to close down, so Joe re-opened as the Blue Ribbon Shoe Shop.

“We have a lot of regulars,” Don said, because the shop has been open for so long. “Everyone knows about it.”

What will the future hold? Working with his Dad since he was six, Don said he plans to keep it going.





Go inside Kaleido-Sno, a sort of living museum of black accomplishment
Photos by Chelsea Hoag

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