Nearly 50 years ago, Jim Grote borrowed $1,300 from his father and in-laws to buy a small pizzeria on Thurman Avenue. Now, Grote, whose Donatos Pizza has nearly 200 restaurants in five states, is slinging some dough back into the low-income South Side neighborhood.
The Grote family is giving $1 million to support the neighborhood, which suffers from high rates of poverty, unemployment, property vacancy (one in five houses in the South Parsons corridor is abandoned), teen pregnancy, infant mortality and death from chronic diseases.
The Grote family gift, announced during Mayor Michael Coleman’s State of the City address, is among $3.2 million in donations that will go toward a comprehensive effort to repair housing, a state-of-the-art early childhood facility, workforce development training and a healthy lifestyle initiative. Other donors include John Edgar of Community Development for All People, developers Don Kelley and Bob Weiler, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, ODW Logistics, DLZ, the United Way of Central Ohio, the Columbus Foundation and Franklin County.
“Our promise is to serve the best pizza and make your day a little better, and part of that promise is about being a good neighbor. So all of our stores have a local store marketing budget that our managers are responsible for to give back to the community,” says Jane Grote Abell, Donatos chairwoman and Jim Grote’s daughter. The South Side “is where we started, which is the most important thing. My dad started on Thurman Avenue. All of us kids grew up working in the store, we lived right behind it, and so it’s very special to us.”
The Grote family spoke with several community partners, including Coleman, who has been eyeing a revitalization of the South Side. “He said he was looking for champions,” Abell says. “And it’s going to take all of us. It isn’t just the city’s obligation, it isn’t just private sector’s, it isn’t just nonprofit. It’s going to take a collaboration of all of us to do this.”
Reprinted from the April 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.