Today over one hundred people gathered to celebrate the Fortieth Anniversary of Isler’s Liquors , one of the Fairfax District’s oldest black businesses. Children played in a jumping balloon, and adults chatted at picnic tables, or lined up for barbeque. Local DJs delivered a selection of modern and classic dance tunes, and some people literally danced in the streets. Many guests were too young to remember a time when the corner market was not a fixture in the neighborhood, but not Charles Hawkins, who read a proclamation from city commemorating the occasion.
“Isler’s is a successful black family business,” said Charles Hawkins. “They have served the community for over forty years. I have known them since I was in the military. They were one of the first black businesses here. I remember that Mr. Isler was a big Mohammed Ali fan and kept a lot of memorabilia back in the day.”
Isler’s Liquors is more than a corner store to the locals: it is an institution. One of the first black businesses to open in what was once known as Antique Row, a business district centered around the intersections of Fairfax and Foothill and Fairfax and Bancroft, Isler’s stayed long after the antique dealers moved away thirty years ago. The store offers staple goods like milk and bread to a community situated more than a mile away from the nearest grocery store at reasonable prices.
Some of the people, like Steven Leslie have known Thelma Isler since they were children and call her “mom.”
“I really think this event is a way to bring together people who normally wouldn’t interact,” said Leslie. “I have known mom and her son for years and have seen them help many people. They’ve been a part of this community all my life.”
The store offers more than food and drink: they supply the community with good will. Andre Isler is very active at the neighborhood meetings for the NCPC 27x Melrose High Hopes beat, and frequently donates goods to local community events. The family is well known and loved in the community, as evidenced by the crowd that showed up for their anniversary event.
“It was very nice,” said Cornelius Punn. “I’ve been knowing Ma for twenty years. She’s eighty-three years old. You couldn’t meet a nicer person. I hope she lives eighty-three more.