Business Legacy: Gregg Peterson, A Legacy of Resilience and Leadership in Salem
SALEM — Growing up in a single-family home with nine siblings, Gregg Peterson watched his mother’s unyielding determination to provide for her family. It was this observation that instilled in him an unmatched work ethic and an aspiration to achieve success.
Years later, after relocating to Salem, Peterson’s dream materialized when he opened the Broadway Cafe, a reflection of his mother’s indomitable spirit. Beyond business, his journey intertwined with Sam Skillern from the Salem Leadership Foundation, with whom he witnessed a unique approach to youth empowerment. The Foundation sought middle-schoolers’ opinions, including Peterson’s daughter Jessica, on matters that would shape their future – a move Peterson found profoundly impactful.
However, 2008 brought economic challenges. The housing market’s collapse took a toll on Peterson’s business, but it also highlighted the importance of community. Observing a close friend on the brink of losing everything, Peterson was reminded of the inherent duty of servant leadership, stepping in to assist where he could. “Outside of difficulty, sometimes it’s just a blessing to have support. It makes a huge difference,” Peterson reflects.
During his tenure as President for the NAACP, Peterson spearheaded efforts to celebrate Juneteenth in Salem. In 2009, the city saw its inaugural community event for what is now a national holiday. The Freedom Fund Banquet, introduced the same year, celebrated and honored community leaders, marking the most diverse gathering Salem had ever seen.
Peterson’s dedication has always centered on engagement, connecting with friends and partners throughout Salem to foster positivity and highlight opportunities. This dedication persists, especially in the wake of the tragic incidents following the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd. For Peterson, the question became, “What’s next?”
To answer that, Peterson co-founded the BeBlac Foundation, aimed at fostering the next generation of Black leadership that works collaboratively to cultivate a unified community. The foundation champions not just dialogue but actionable steps, addressing systemic racism and oppression.
Further amplifying its mission, the BeBlac Foundation has committed to investing up to $160,000 into small Black-owned and BIPOC businesses. In partnership with organizations like Business Oregon, EEIP grant, Willamette Workforce Partnership, The United Way, and Meyer Memorial Trust, the foundation seeks to educate and nurture a diversified leadership base in Salem.
Faith has played a significant role in Peterson’s journey. His unwavering belief in Jesus Christ underscores his every action, guiding him in his pursuit of community betterment. As Peterson succinctly puts it, “First, we should live a legacy, not leave one,” emphasizing the importance of collaborative efforts. In his words, “God created us together to do this together… So don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
This story of perseverance and leadership underscores Peterson’s commitment to Salem and its future. With individuals like him at the helm, the community is bound to see more inclusive, collaborative, and positive days ahead.