What do a children’s book writer and a gas station owner have in common? Community. Roopster Roux creator, Lavaille Lavette, pitched her idea of partnering with a gas station to promote reading to owners Naser Odeh and Mohammed Abdullah and they got it immediately.
For Black communities that are food deserts, the gas station convenience store is where many residents go for gas as well as groceries. Lavette says she had the idea of a themed gas station with a literacy focus for years. It was a trip to Hyderabad, India that a chance meeting led to her being introduced to Odeh and Abdullah and the rest is history.
“I believe in meeting people where they are. Most people go to convenience stores at gas stations, so what if I can elevate the importance of reading outside of the classroom by introducing fun ways to get kids excited about reading,” explains Lavette.
The book publisher, public school teacher and administrator created Roopster Roux as a hero for her little brother whose only interest was sports. The little rooster who loved to play basketball, football and baseball used his reading ability to fight the villains. Her elementary school-aged brother would call the rooster, “Roopster, which is how the character got its name.
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley declared “Roopster Roux Day” in Chicago on September 29, 1998. The grand opening for The Roux gas station in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood will take place 24 years to the day at 2 p.m., 7051 South Western Avenue.
Rooster Roux’s motto is, “Reading can be as much fun as a slam dunk, a touchdown, or a home run!” Since creating the character, Lavette has sold over 500,000 books.
“My father was a high school principal and football and basketball coach. He also had multiple businesses. He always asked, ‘How does this business impact the community, how am I helping?’ That’s how I was raised,” shares Lavette.
A belief in the greater good is what she shares with partners Odeh and Abdullah.
“This is a gas station with a purpose,” says Odeh. “We take great pride in what we are building in this community. We believe it is very important to give back to the people who support us.”
“Most of our employees come from the surrounding communities,” adds Abdullah.
Lavette goes on to explain The Roux will be working with schools, churches and community organizations within a five-mile radius to implement an educational component that includes parents, reading and writing contests and scholarships.