EDITOR’S NOTE: This story first appeared on FRNJ Extra on May 23, 2022.
Feature photo of Jamie Perry, Gloria Mae Morgan and Daniel Morgan at the counter of Morgan Mini Mart in Brotmanville.
By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
BROTMANVIILE – Gloria Mae Morgan and her husband L.E. Morgan talked about selling their closed convenience store at 1193 Gershal Avenue several years ago, still believing it was needed in the community but not sure if they could keep it going since they were both in their 90s.
They just couldn’t do it.
Now, with a new generation of family members reopening the small convenience store and deli less than a mile off New Jersey Route 55 and driving distance away from any other convenience store or shopping area, Morgan Mini Mart has proudly taken its place again as a beacon for the small community of Brotmanville in Pittsgrove Township.
Morgan Mini Mart is a family and Brotmanville legacy. The Morgans started the store in 1975. While it has been reopened for several months after being closed for a few years, it stands as an oasis in the tight-knit community and one of the few family-owned and African American-owned convenience stores in a region dominated by corporate giants like Wawa and Royal Farms.
It’s a sight that brings a huge smile to the face of Gloria Mae Morgan, 94, who defies her age as she walks around the store, talks with customers and jokes with her grandson Daniel Morgan and fiancée Jamie Perry, who are operating the store.
“I used to open at 6 o’clock in the morning to get all the early customers,” Morgan told Front Runner New Jersey in an interview last week with a smile as grandson stood by. “Now they don’t open until 9 o’clock.”
L.E. Morgan, a former deacon at Friendship Baptist Church next door to the store, didn’t live to see the store reopen. The couple was married for 72 years until he died at 94 in 2020. His picture, though, sits on the checkout counter of Morgan Mini Mart, essentially watching over the store’s rebirth.
Morgan said the best part of being a business owner is being your own boss.
“We needed a convenience store out here,” Gloria Mae Morgan said. “You have to drive all the way to Vineland just to get a loaf of bread if we didn’t have the store here.
“This is a good community, and it was pretty nice. The people here have been supportive and it’s just so convenient to have a store right here in the neighborhood.”
Morgan and her husband grew up in segregated Mississippi before moving to New Jersey in the 1940s. They made the trek to New Jersey after other family members made the move to the Garden State and provided a foundation.
She jokes, though, that she moved from one farm to the other when she arrived in South Jersey. Listening to her at times feels like opening up and encyclopedia into the past, but very much a woman on the move.
She effortlessly walked around the store one and talked about an upcoming trip to Chicago. She only stopped driving months ago after family members insisted on taking over driving duties for her, a fact she grudgingly accepted.
When ask about the ownership of Morgan’s Mini Mart, she was clear and firm.
“I still own it,” Gloria Mae Morgan said, though admits she’s been “retired” since 2010. She then gave a glance to her grandson, the son of her daughter Angie. “Well, I’m not going to just give it to him.”
Perry, who customers can often find behind the cash register, at the convenience store, said the woman she refers to simply as “Mom-mom” leaves her in awe.
“Often people will ask that very same question, ‘How would you describe Mrs. Morgan?’ or ‘What do you think of Mrs. Morgan?” Perry said. “The truth is nothing I can say would make you understand how truly amazing she is. She is caring, compassionate, loving and would give anybody anything, in the same breath she may give you a piece of her mind.
“She is strong and strong willed, God-fearing and speaks her mind. I have known Mrs. Morgan for 16 years and in those 16 years she has done so much, for me, her family, her community and everyone. Anything I would say would not do her any justice because she is simply that phenomenal.”
The Morgans had eight children, one being Rev. Albert Morgan, longtime Bridgeton school board member and pastor of the influential Union Baptist Temple Church in Bridgeton.
Gloria Mae Morgan faithfully attends Friendship Baptist Church. She said the secret to her longevity is no secret – it’s simply “doing things right” and far as her faith in God and family.
It’s one of the reasons she said they just couldn’t sell the store.
“[My husband] said we should keep it until someone in the family wanted to take it over,” Gloria Mae Morgan said.
During the interview, customers flowed in and out of Morgan Mini Mart. Daniel Morgan said many of them often hang and tell stories of when their parents patronized the store. Morgan, who works as a union plumber, said he wants to keep those memories going.
“The name holds a lot of value in the neighborhood,” Daniel Morgan said. “I’m part of the business but I’m remember riding my bike here to the store when I was a child. It has been such a rock for the community. They could have sold it but I’m grateful they didn’t and allowed for the legacy to continue.”
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