It’s not unusual to hear of someone involved in NASCAR giving to charity. From drivers to team owners to the sanctioning body, giving to charities is commonplace among those who make a living in the world of big time stock car auto racing.
One NASCAR family is going a step further though. JD Gibbs, president at Joe Gibbs Racing, along with wife Melissa, recently opened a business that sees all its profits go to local charities; not a portion, but 100% of all the proceeds.
“We were initially motivated by our involvement with Young Life, an outreach ministry to high school kids. As committee members,” JD said. “We were challenged to think outside the box of the traditional golf tournament and banquet to something more sustainable.”
“The idea to open a "not for profit" business was borrowed from a church in DC that operates a coffee shop under the same premise,” he added. “Once we had the idea, we realized we could help other local charities in addition to (Young Life).”
The business the Gibbs’ opened was Groucho's Deli in Huntersville North Carolina earlier this year. Melissa is a native of Columbia, South Carolina where Groucho's Deli originated. She had introduced JD and their four boys to Groucho’s early on and regular visits were the norm for the family. Thus, the idea came to open a Groucho’s in Huntersville; despite the fact JD had no experience in the restaurant business.
“Mercifully the people at Groucho's were really supportive and wanted it to succeed,” JD said. “They transplanted one of their best managers to our location and have assisted us at every turn.”
However, the incentive isn’t to just to run a restaurant. Sticking to the original plan Groucho’s is a way to generate revenue to give back to non-profits in the local community.
“It's the whole reason we did it,” JD said. He then joked: “That and the employee discount on subs!”
Don’t expect to find JD working much behind the counter. He’s busy overseeing Joe Gibbs Racing nearby. After taking over as president in 1997, JD has helped guide the operation to one of the largest, and most successful teams on the circuit with three fulltime NASCAR Sprint Cup teams. That doesn’t mean JD isn’t a regular visitor Groucho’s though.
“I spend a lot of time there,” JD said. “It's so close to the race shop that I rarely eat lunch anywhere else! They don't want my help in the day-to-day, but Melissa and I are heavily involved in promoting the restaurant.”
As for charities that will be receiving donations, those will change on a quarterly basis.
“We're starting off with charities that we already have relationships with...ones close to our hearts,” JD said. “But customers have suggested charities to us that we're really excited about. We keep a running list going and hope to be in business long enough to help them all.”
JD has found other positive things to come out of the restaurant since it opened this past March though.
“I think the fact that it has been a family affair,” he said. “Something our kids feel some ownership in as well. They feel a part of this in a way that wouldn't be possible if we just wrote donation checks to the charities.”
As with any family business, the restaurant could become a family legacy to hand down in the future, however it’s not about simply feeding people and running a deli.
“The legacy we want to pass on to our boys is the importance of looking beyond your own interests to those of others,” JD said. “It's so easy to be self-absorbed in this culture but we're called as Christians to love our neighbors. That can be lived out in a thousand different ways, whether they use the Groucho's vehicle or not.”
Last week the Gibbs family gave its first donation of profits generated by their Groucho's Deli: $16,000 to three local charities in the Charlotte area — Make a Wish foundation, Levine Children’s Hospital, and Young Life.
All indications are that those donations will be the first of many to come.
“I hope that the local community understands that we need their support,” JD said. “This concept only works if they support it. So far, we've been overwhelmed by the way this has been embraced.”