DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Jasper Baccus was born to be a businessman.
It was in his blood, he says, as his father ran a trucking company and his grandfather owned a restaurant and feed store.
“I come from a family that has always been in business,” he said.
And 52 years ago this week, Baccus opened his namesake cleaners at the corner of what would later become Malcolm X and Martin Luther King –– the very heart of South Dallas.
Baccus learned early that ownership equals control; who could teach that lesson better than his grandfather Patrick Baccus, a freed slave?
Although reluctant to discuss what life had been like then, Baccus says his grandfather would tell him, “Boy, I don’t need to tell you about what we went through… you want to do something worthwhile and live better. Don’t look back at what happened in slavery times… you’ve got to look ahead, and plan ahead.”
And he did.
Along the way he learned, too, that ‘ownership’ also means sacrifice.
“It was hard to get funds… I sold my Cadillac and bought a ’49 Chevrolet to buy my dry cleaning machine, and then I started doing my own cleaning and that’s how my business expanded,” he said.
During the height of his expansion, Baccus was opening new dry cleaner locations every year.
He says he eventually owned 12 and two Laundromats, employing dozens of people.
“I had 43 people in one place working for me,” says Baccus. “I know I was helping that many families. Makes me feel real proud.”
But, his beloved South Dallas –– called ‘Queen City’ when he was born there ––would fall on hard times. Once home to the most affluent African Americans in the city, the community would fall victim to urban flight, drugs and poverty.
But, Baccus persevered.
“That was my community,” he says now. “Everybody would say I should move, I say [no] I’m not moving nowhere… I’m going to stay right here in South Dallas to give the service to my people.”
And more than a half-century later, the business that started it all still stands, run by the fourth generation of Baccus entrepreneurs.
“Everything that he taught us was intense,” says his son, Paul Baccus. “Anybody can clean clothes, but he taught us to mind the details… how the lapels lay… the tissue paper. It was embedded in us that’s how it was supposed to be.”
A brother Don, who runs a second location in Oak Cliff, says of his patriarch father: “He set the tone for us in regard to what’s important.”
“The Lord has been good to me,” says Baccus, now 83 and living in a Southern Dallas County retirement community. “I know I’ve done something worthwhile.”
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