Milestones Of The B.E. 100s

A look at a quarter-century of major events which shaped the growth of the nation's largest black-owned businesses

Sound of Success,” BE, June 1974.

1975: The third report on the BE 100 found the nation’s largest black companies rocked by recession. However, they still managed to deliver sales of $668.45 million. Al Johnson Cadillac resumes its reign as the nation’s largest black-owned auto dealership.

1976: The BE 100 experiences its first decrease in combined revenues, which tally up to $623.9 million. Dick Gidron Cadillac of the Bronx, New York, takes over as the nation’s largest black-owned auto dealership.

This year’s BE 100 “Freshman Class” includes two companies that would become distinguished mainstays among the nation’s largest black businesses. Pro-line Corp., the hair care and cosmetics manufacturer, and electronics manufacturer H.F. Henderson Industries debuted on the list in 1976.

Interesting fact: Food was big business for African American entrepreneurs in 1976, with 17 BE 100 companies in businesses ranging from supermarkets to meat processing to food service management. In fact, there were six supermarkets represented on the list. One reason: While margins are narrow, the food industry was considered a recession resistant business.
Most revealing quote: “There is always room for growth in our business,” says J. Bruce Llewellyn, CEO of Fedco Foods Corp. (a top-five BE 100 company from 1973-84).”The demand for food is one of the few things in this world that remains constant.”

1977: The BE 100 celebrates its fifth anniversary, g
enerating sales of $787.4 million. Companies on the list employ 11,897 people. Thirty-two of the original Top 100 have appeared on all five lists.
Interesting fact: When Cook-Farr Ford Inc., led by former NFL star Mel Farr, debuted at No. 18 on the BE 100 list in 1977 with sales of $9.8 billion, maybe only he knew that he would someday become the master marketeer and car salesman “Mel Farr, Superstar.” Today, Mel Farr Automotive Group is the nation’s largest black-owned auto dealership with more than a half-billion dollars in revenues.
1978: Revenues for the BE 100 rose to $886.7 billion, with 42% of the list comprised of auto dealerships. As more black entrepreneurs gain opportunities to acquire dealerships from Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, the dominance of the BE 100 by auto dealerships will become a continuing theme during the next decade.

Interesting fact: Note to collectors–the cover of the June 1978 BE 100 issue was illustrated by the great African American artist Romare Bearden.

1979: The BE 100 breaks the billion-dollar barrier, posting combined revenues of $1.053 billion. Los Angeles-based Family Savings & Loan Association, with $80 million in assets, interrupts New York’s Carver Federal Savings & Loan Association’s five-year reign as the nation’s largest black thrift.

1980: The eighth annual listing of the BE 100 reports that revenues of the nation’s largest black-owned companies increased to $1.2 billion.

The rise in the cost of fuel and other energy sources created a boom in black-owned oil companies. There were 11 such businesses on the 1980 list, with four first-time BE 100 concerns, including Grimes Oil Co. of Boston which had $30 million in revenues. Six of the top 20 companies were in the fuel

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