When you combine pounds of passion, cups of commitment and pinches of tradition, you have a recipe that keeps many Black-owned restaurants in business. Whether they are soul food places owned and operated by multiple generations or contemporary eateries created by couples, the main ingredient is love. “That support makes the hard times easier and the good times greater,” says Subrina Collier, general manager of The Yolk Café in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Collier and her husband Greg opened The Yolk in March of 2012. Both had worked in restaurants in high school and college. The couple moved from Arizona back to the South after Greg finished culinary school. Her parents helped them come up with the $20,000 needed to open their restaurant. “I think our restaurant is successful because it has been built on skill, good intentions and a desire to reach a variety of people,” says Collier, who handles the service, staff and paperwork while Greg creates and cooks the dishes on their menu.
Working together presents some challenges when it comes to keeping personal feelings out of doing what is best for their business. However, the Colliers know they have each other’s backs when it comes to running their boutique restaurant and expanding their vision of “a love affair with breakfast.”
Payne’s Bar-B-Q earned its reputation for some of the best-smoked pork shoulder, ribs and chopped pork sandwiches in Memphis with more than 45 years of serving patrons in Tennessee. Flora Payne’s late husband, Horton, and her mother-in-law, Emily, opened the restaurant she now owns with her children, Ronald and Candice. “We take pride in living out our father’s legacy,” says Candice Payne Parker. “We work hard in keeping the family tradition and we love our customers.”
Flora’s mother-in-law created the restaurant’s now-famous mustard-based slaw that tops the pulled pork sandwiches. Flora and Ronald are the cooks and pit masters. Candice makes the barbeque sauce and helps with the day-to-day operations. The family believes their love for each other and faith in God has kept the restaurant’s doors open for nearly half a century. “We have a lot of laughs and good times. This is the business that God blessed us with, and as a family, we want to be good stewards over all God has entrusted to us,” says Candice.
Payne’s Bar-B-Q is located at 1762 Lamar Ave.
Original Soul Vegetarian – Chicago
There is no meat or dairy on the menu at Original Soul Vegetarian, one of the oldest vegan soul food restaurants in America. CEO Lori Seay and her brother Arel Brown, the COO, took over the business in 2012. They wanted to continue the legacy of generational wealth and opportunity that their parents created in 1982. “We have paid attention and grown with the times now that the world is fully aware of veganism,” says Brown.
The brother and sister have plans to open an Original Soul Vegetarian in a second Chicago location in 2019. “We plan to expand our retail department, provide more jobs and more classes on healthier lifestyles. There are so many opportunities for the continuation of the legacy,” says Seay.
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The owners’ spouses, two brothers and their children work with them to provide “great tasty food and excellent customer service.” Working together has taught them what other successful family-run businesses recognize about overcoming one of the greatest challenges of working with someone you love. “You have to make decisions based on what is best for the business or what is right for the business, not the person you love,” says Brown. “You have to know how to separate the personal from the business.”
Original Soul Vegetarian is located at 203 E. 75th Street. Be sure to following them on Instagram and Facebook to see the legacy live on.
The couple who opened Brix Wine & Charcuterie Boutique in Detroit shares Brown and Seay’s belief that the ability to trust one another is the greatest joy that comes from working with loved ones. “You have someone that totally understands what you’re going through in order to be successful,” says Mikiah Westbrooks, co-owner of Brix. “There are times when this business can seem a bit overwhelming, and it’s a beautiful thing when you can look over your shoulder and know that someone has your back 100 percent.”
Mikiah and her husband Fran divide responsibilities for Brix based on their strengths. They returned to Detroit from New York City to be a part of the resurgence. They both have a passion for wine and the joys associated with gatherings around food. “One thing that was common in both of our families was everything taking place in the kitchen; family discussions, laughter and cooking,” says Mikiah. “We wanted to bring that experience into Brix, so when our guests walk through the door, they feel like they are at home.”
Mikiah realized her 15-year dream of opening a wine bar in August 2017. She and Fran are making plans to open a second location. While she credits prayer, faith, love and persistence for their success in the restaurant business, they are still trying to conquer one of the most significant challenges of working together. “It’s tough to turn it off! We have a habit of talking about Brix daily,” says Mikiah. “I understand that it is an integral part of our lives, but we need to learn to create moments that only focus on us.”