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Busta’s Person of the Week: His dark past in prison is behind him, John Baxter’s future is bright

John Baxter, owner of Shades and Things

Busta’s Person of the Week: His dark past in prison is behind him, John Baxter’s future is bright
March 26
05:00 2020

By Busta Brown

“My mother baked cakes at C&W. She worked hard, long hours, and didn’t make much money. But she kept working and never complained. My mother was a strong woman; she inspired me. When I got out, it was the spirit of her strength that made me decide to leave them streets alone.”

Winston-Salem native John Baxter Sr. said dealing with six kids was financially tough on his mother, “so I started hanging around grocery stores and putting groceries in the cars for money, and other odd jobs that a kid could do.” 

The road from drug dealing to prison began at age 12. It started when Baxter noticed his friends were living large and he wanted in. “When you’re young with five other siblings, you can’t always get what you want. So I ran to the streets and tried to get the things I saw everyone else with. I wanted that popularity too, so I started selling drugs.”

Sadly, it didn’t take long before the middle school student’s first arrest. 

John Baxter grew up in The Grove neighborhood in Winston-Salem, where he attended Mineral Springs Middle and North Forsyth High School. John said being the black sheep in the family made him strive to be the best. “I worked hard my whole life and took my education seriously. I really wanted to do the right thing, but it was tough.”

The street life was dangling before his eyes, like a carrot for a rabbit. It was tantalizing, so he eventually grabbed it. Coming from a home with struggling parents, and just two years out of elementary, he took pride in being one of the go-to guys for drugs. His dream came true. He was living large like the other ballers in the neighborhood and surrounding areas. In his teens, Baxter finally had all of the things his mother couldn’t afford to buy him – except bail money. “Undercover police came to my hood and snatched me up, along with some other guys. My mother had to come get me out on bond. When I got caught, I didn’t know much about how to run and get away from the police. I was like, how do I deal with these people? I was scared! After that, I thought it would be a lesson, but it wasn’t. I felt like, now I can deal with the police,” he said. 

At the age of 20, John thought he was doing a good job with dealing with the police, but reality began to sink in slowly and nearly deadly. “I got my first prison bid at 20. Came home and was still doing the same thing. I went back in, got out and did the same stupid things. Things that could have got me hurt.” In 2001, he realized he couldn’t deal with the law. “When I went back, I stayed for 12 years. I lost both of my parents while I was in prison and I said to myself: Do I want to spend my life in prison, dead on the streets, or get yourself together? When I was in there, I wrote a letter called Me, Myself and I. I wrote it to reassure me and everyone else that we have the ability to do what we believe. You have to neglect the naysayers and negativity, and then receive it, believe it, and you’ll achieve it. I came out this time wanting something for myself. I thought about my mother and I cut my dreads off and started grinding,” said Baxter.

His grinding and staying on the right path has paid off. John Baxter Sr. is now the owner of Shades and Things at Marketplace Mall. “I love women, so I sell everything that women like. I know women love shades, and they wear them all year round. I started off in my car and going to beauty salons as well. The shades were selling very well, so I added purses, oils for women and men, black art, and even household products. I have everything that women love,” he said. 

The word got out and his products were now in demand, so he moved into the Marketplace Mall in Winston-Salem. He said, “Unity and togetherness in the black community has always set the path for the success of black businesses. As a new small business owner, I look forward to everyone getting through this coronavirus crisis safely and healthy, and also meeting new customers. I always develop a strong bond with my customers, because I believe in building relationships.”

He also said that growing up in the hood, the community always stuck together. That’s all they knew. And I agree 100% because I grew up in the hood as well. And like John, I saw how we supported the mom and pop liquor and grocery stores, hair salons, restaurants, and more. We even supported the candy houses. I grew up in those days, when one person in my neighborhood made it, we all made it. I’m encouraged that the same love and support still exists today. 

The former Grove resident was adamant about not allowing anyone to pull him backwards. “I keep it moving forward and open my store every day. I go to work and then go home. I’m not the man I used to be, so I’m raising my sons to follow my new path in life. Our relationship has its challenges like all parents. I told them that what I’m doing is building a legacy for them, so they don’t have to be in those streets like I did. But they have to do the right thing,” said the new entrepreneur. 

After our interview, I sent up a prayer that God will bless Shades and Things with an overflow of customers, and that John Baxter stays on the path to righteousness. His spirit seems to be in a good place. “I want to be a trailblazer and trend setter. When you see me, I’m always alone, staying out of trouble and the streets, because you never know what people got going on. I want to lead people. I want youth to see me and say, ‘that’s the kind of man I want to be.’ Busta, I want to live. I want to live in prosperity, peace and love. Stay up and never fall back down again.”

My Person of the Week is John Baxter Sr. 

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