The Roux — a ‘gas station with purpose’ — opens on South Side with pumps, store and literacy center for kids
“We’re about not only making a difference, but being a difference,” said Lavaille Lavette, author of the children’s series “Adventures of Roopster Roux.”
Lavaille Lavette is a former teacher who started a popular series of children’s stories to get her brother interested in reading.
She also got businessmen Mohammed Abdallah and Naser Odeh interested in her idea to build a “gas station with purpose.”
On Thursday, they cut the ribbon for The Roux. Named for Lavette’s “Adventures of Roopster Roux,” it features gas pumps, a convenience store — and a literacy center, where younger children can sit and read and where teens can enter programs to mentor others in reading.
The date of the opening coincides with “Roopster Roux Day” declared by Mayor Richard Daley in 1998 — when Lavette’s series of children’s books began publishing — and again by Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday.
Lavette said the gas station is a “jump-off point to show how business and education can work together in a meaningful way.”
“The idea is to spread the message that learning could be as much fun as a slam dunk, touchdown or home run,” Lavette told the Sun-Times. “We’re about not only making a difference, but being a difference.”
The station, which borders the Chicago Lawn and West Englewood neighborhoods at 7051 S. Western Ave., was a vacant lot before Abdallah and Odeh invested over $4 million into building The Roux.
“We wanted to make it a community gas station — there’s nothing similar to it in the city of Chicago,” Abdallah said.
They plan to build six more in Chicago.
More than a dozen third graders from McKay Elementary School were invited to the grand opening Thursday. They squealed at the Roopster Roux mascot and yelled out “Math!” when asked what their favorite subject was.
Also on hand was Tina Hammond, who has lived in Englewood for 45 years. She thinks the gas station will contribute to the community.
“Anytime somebody comes into the neighborhood with anything that’s positive, I’m excited about it,” Hammond said. “I think it’s important.”
Firas Yassin, who manages the store at the gas station, believes people will do business at a place that pays back to the community. “It makes me proud to be a part of a business like this.”