- Associated Press - Sunday, October 16, 2016

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Dion Savage Jr. has a new hustle.

Instead of tagging the heavy bag, jump roping and sparring with opponents to prepare for professional boxing matches, he is punching the clock in a different way.

At 8 a.m. every morning, he disables the alarm system, checks the freezer temperature, sweeps the floor, checks inventory and then feeds his gray cat to keep the mice away before welcoming local residents to his business on the north side of town: Dion’s Party Store, 6101 N. Saginaw St.

He’s far from reaching millionaire status like his former mentor Floyd Mayweather, but the 29-year-old is doing well.

“Matter of fact, I’m doing better in the store than I was boxing. Because when you fight, you just get one check and then you have to go back to training,” Savage said. “Here in the store, we make money every day, and we’re able to do multiple things using this store of reaching the people.”

Savage relocated his wife, Brianna, and their two children Wali, 1, and Amina, one month, back to Flint from their Las Vegas residence about a year ago to reopen the spot. He also spends a lot of time with a seven-year-old son, Dion III, from a previous marriage.

The Savage family has been involved in the party store business since Dion Jr. was in diapers. His grandparents, Geraldine and Albert Savage, first started running stores as early as 1989. They previously held the same space that Savage now uses for nearly a decade, but retired from the daily labor in November of 2014 as they started to get up in age.

His father Dion Sr. also owned stores on Court and Welch streets before getting locked up. In 1997, Dion Savage Sr. was sentenced to life in prison for being part of a group that allegedly sold and distributed crack cocaine, according to legal documents.

Although he was never caught selling drugs, he was ultimately convicted of helping run a criminal enterprise and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Savage is spearheading the family’s attempt to appeal the conviction as his 52-year-old father continues to do time at FCI Pekin in Pekin, Illinois, according to MLive.com (http://bit.ly/2dgdJRk ).

Enduring that pain over the years is what inspired Savage to return to his roots, but his grandmother warned him that it wouldn’t be all peaches and cream.

“You’ve got to keep your eyes open at all times,” Geraldine Savage said. “You can’t let folks run over you.”

Savage reopened the store in March. He says he has invested nearly $25,000 to obtain the liquor license, patch up roofing with new ceiling tile, install a new wall and door, improve the plumbing system and brush fresh paint around the store.

Brianna, 21, is often in the store with her husband and kids, ringing up orders from behind the bulletproof glass windows from 8 a.m. to midnight all week as they make ends meet. On Sundays, they open at 10 a.m. She is originally from Inglewood, California but sees her husband’s vision enough to tackle this new journey with him in Flint.

“It’s inspiring,” Brianna said. “A lot of people when they get money, they leave their hometown and separate. But it’s nice to see that he’s giving back from the money that he’s received.”

Naturally, some would question how another convenience store can be helping a violent city such as Flint. There are certainly tons of other places to purchase beer, cigarettes, soft drinks and grocery store items in the same area, but Savage is trying to set a positive example as an African-American business man.

He’s already hosted a couple of free food giveaways and is planning to start his own boxing promotional company with a gym on the vacant side of the store.

Savage (12-10, 6 KOs) was formerly signed to Mayweather Promotions from 2009-11, but he said their relationship ended on sour terms.

What he did take from that experience with Mayweather was how to take advantage of his own destiny to become a stronger leader.

“That’s what the people like around here and the best way to produce change in the people is by setting an example,” Savage said. “So, when they see my conduct as a man and as a business owner, they can reflect on that in their life and want to change.

“They see I don’t do that stuff. I’m providing it because I know that’s what they want. But they see I don’t smoke and I don’t drink; so it’s a process. The store is the heart, and we’re just trying to get the community back pumping because it’s dead right now.”

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Information from: The Grand Rapids Press:MLive.com, http://www.mlive.com

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