A Different Kind of Saint
Former cornerback puts 300 families into homes, opens the only Black-owned grocery store in Baton Rouge
Spend five minutes with Tyrone Legette and you’ll instantly hear his passion to rejuvenate broken communities in Louisiana. The former NFL Player played many games in the Mercedes Benz Superdome but the touchdowns he is scoring today are worth much more than points on a scoreboard.
Legette, a native of Colombia, South Carolina, embraced Louisiana as home as a defensive back for the New Orleans Saints in 1995. After his NFL career ended he decided to remain in the area. “I saw a need here and I wanted to help provide solutions,” said Leggett.
“Sixty-four percent of the residents were renters and most of the jobs were service jobs. Without a realistic path, many of these hardworking people would never be able to own homes. They deserved to own their homes,” he said.
“The opportunity to own your own home is the best part of the American Dream. It should be available to all people.”
He began Legette Construction with a plan to build affordable homes for low income families but also help them qualify for the homes. “We have helped people who have never owned a home get the opportunity to buy homes for the first time,” he explained. Through the Community Reinvestment Act, he was able to share his ideas. Those ideas eventually attracted a partnership with Whitney Bank. With funds available through the Federal Government and the support of Whitney Bank, he became the liaison to bridge all entities together.
Legette Construction’s homes are now occupied in Harvey (Westbank), the Lower 9th Ward, the Bywater District, Uptown New Orleans, and in Baton Rouge. The company has been a link to bringing other minority construction companies into the fold by contracting them to share the work opportunities. Legette is responsible for building hundreds of new homes and helping more than 300 families qualify to buy them.
“Mr. Legette is not just building homes. His commitment is much deeper than that. Working for him, I have learned his greater passion is rebuilding Black families,” said Joyce Burges, Legette Construction administrative assistant. “He gets it. The consequences of poverty and the stronghold of financial debt. He is on a mission to help people turn their lives around,” she said.
Burges, a former city councilwoman in Baker, La., said Legette ’s ideas were so illustrated that she could see his vision to restore the community plain and clear. Rather than seek another council term, she vowed to work with Legette to rebuild her town. “He not only had the resources but he had a plan. A clear plan that would hire people, rejuvenate areas which were deteriorating, but he also had the tenacity to fight the kind of opposition that would surely come his way,” she said.
Maybe that’s the reason he stepped out on faith and opened the only Black-owned grocery store in Baton Rouge, in an area that’s predominately Black and always overlooked in comparison to other thriving areas of the city. North Baton Rouge, which consists of Baker, Scotlandville, and Glen Oaks communities saw its landmark Winn-Dixie close two years ago. A tragedy that would require residents to drive an even further distance to buy groceries. “It wasn’t fair that these residents should continue feeling ostracized from the economic growth that other parts of the city have become used to,” said Legette . “So, I made up in my mind that I would do something about it.”
He entertained the idea of several grocery chains but the Sav-A-Lot Corporation seemed to make the most sense. “It was the best fit for this community. Not only have we created jobs in the store but we continue to motivate our workers to think bigger than Save-A-Lot. This store should be a stepping stone. It should not be the final step.”
The store is a way for residents to get affordable groceries while providing jobs to help produce stable work opportunities in an area that had become used to seeing businesses come and go. “We are here for the long haul. Our vision doesn’t stop with just this one location,” he said. “We plan to open two more stores.”
When residents heard their new grocery store was Black-owned, it made them even more proud to shop there. One customer cried when the store opened, telling Legette , “I’ve never seen someone who looks like you doing the things you do.” Like other customers, she drives from other parts of the city just to shop in a Black-owned supermarket.
Football helped shape Legette as a businessman. “There would be 80,000 people in the Superdome but you don’t really see any of them. You hear them, but you don’t really see them,” he explained. “You have to have tunnel vision to get the job done. You have to ignore everything around you and focus on what’s right in front of you. As a visionary, I have learned that same concept has to be applied to business.”
He insists his mission has nothing to do with building homes and opening stores. “Those are great business endeavors but it really is more than that for me,” he said. “I am committed to rebuilding families by helping them consolidate debt. If you’re saving $200 per month by paying a mortgage instead of rent and saving another $100 a month or more by buying more affordable foods for your family it frees up money which can either be invested into entrepreneurship or into quality family activity.”
“Debt breaks up marriages, families, and self esteem. We can rebuild the family by taking the elephant out of the room.”
Legette has plans to build a quality senior living facility in the near future. While most people would worry about a location to break ground for such a needed facility, Legette won’t have that problem. He not only owns the Sav-A-Lot grocery store, he also owns the entire shopping plaza.
This Save-A-Lot is not just the only Black-owned franchise in the city. Legette owns the only franchise of the Save-A-Lot company in the entire state. All the other locations are owned by the corporation. In the ‘90s, Legette played on a football team as a Saint. For the people in South Louisiana, he has actually become one.
By Ro Wright
Courtesy of BlackBoot News
Photos by BlackBoot News