These 6 Businesses are Staying Open for Good
How our Investment Fund grantees are weathering the pandemicMorgan Carter
April 07, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the restaurant industry, permanently shuttering 17 percent of restaurants nationwide, and revealing inequities and vulnerabilities baked into the foundation of these businesses. But there is hope on the horizon, as vaccines roll out and more food professionals are immunized. At the James Beard Foundation, we’re looking forward with optimism, while also striving to provide resources and tools to help the industry recover and rebuild with equity and sustainability at its heart.
A key part of our efforts to support and rebuild the industry is the Food and Beverage Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans. Over the past few months we’ve disbursed grants of $15,000 each to 37 independent businesses across the country, who are not only using the funds to keep the lights on or rehire staff laid off during the pandemic, but to grow as leaders in their communities and beyond. For the next few weeks, we’ll be showcasing our grantees, from their menus to their local impact. Read on for inspiring stories and delicious dishes, and learn more about supporting the Investment Fund here.
Bumbu Roux—previously called The Rice Table—draws on both Indonesian and Creole cuisine stemming from chef Chris Reed’s cultural heritage. Reed started off cooking alongside his mother at various street festivals, which led to popular pop-up dinners, and eventually a brick-and-mortar spot in Chicago’s Politan Row food hall in 2019. Due to the pandemic, Reed made the difficult decision to not renew his lease. But Bumbu Roux lives on through a number of COVID-19 safe avenues, from catered at-home rijsttafels (Dutch–Indonesian multi-course feasts) to online cooking classes and products for sale.
2135 S Neil Street, Champaign, IL
Over the past 10 years, Michael Harden Jr. has been serving up spiced rice and peas, oxtail, jerk chicken, and more at his restaurant Caribbean Grill. Harden Jr. got his start vending at food festivals, then slowly expanded his business from catering and carry-out lunch to a food truck in 2015 and finally a brick-and-mortar location in 2017. Since the start of the pandemic, Harden Jr. has seen a 50 percent decrease in revenue and has reduced his business hours to help keep his staff safe. Harden Jr. plans to use the grant to retain and pay employees as well as sustain operations during this time.
FOODĒ and Mercantile
900 Princess Anne St, Fredericksburg, VA
Joy Crump, co-owner behind FOODĒ and Mercantile, is driven by a simple philosophy when it comes to running her restaurants: “use local ingredients, find the best chefs, use the seasons to drive our menus, and bridge the gap between the food that we’re preparing and the people that are eating it so they understand where their food comes from.” When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Crump and her business partner Beth Black combined both restaurants under one roof to save on costs and consolidate expenses. Now Mercantile services the morning crowd with biscuits, omelettes, and variety of coffee drinks, while FOODĒ serves a dinner menu of burgers, hand-cut steaks, and their famous Rosie’s fried chicken with cheddar grits and slow-cooked greens, inspired by Crump’s mother. Crump gives credit to her network for keeping her afloat. “I am proud to have a team behind me and a community that wants to see us succeed,” she said.
19363 Livernois, Detroit
After working as an accountant for 17 years, April Anderson was ready for a change. Growing up baking alongside her grandmother and mother, Anderson decided to finally follow her passion and went back to school in 2010 for the culinary arts. After hosting a series of successful pop-ups, Anderson opened up Good Cakes and Bakes with her wife and business partner Michelle in 2013. The bakery soon became a celebrity favorite, drawing praise from Oprah Winfrey for the gooey butter cakes and the late Aretha Franklin, who loved Anderson’s red velvet and pineapple upside-down cakes. Good Cakes and Bakes was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as corporate and large catering events dried up overnight. Anderson hopes to use the grant towards marketing efforts and funding new product ideas including cupcake and cookie kits.
9215 E Jefferson, Detroit
Nya Marshall had only been operating her restaurant for three months before the pandemic shuttered businesses across Detroit. After experiencing the difficulty of applying for grants and federal help, Marshall turned to advocacy and was appointed to the leadership board of the Independent Restaurant Coalition. In the midst of revamping her business into a carryout and takeout model offering shrimp and grits, burgers, and cocktails to-go, Marshall still found time to give back and has provided meals to the Detroit Police Department, the Detroit Fire Department, and to frontline workers via Feed The Frontlines - Detroit initiative. The restaurant returned to limited indoor and patio dining this past September.
Sassy Chefs Kitchen was founded when owner Jada Prince decided to use her life savings to create a business dedicated to spreading love through food. Establishing her brand with catering and vending opportunities, Prince opened a kiosk at a Potomac Mills mall in 2019, selling cobblers and pies, cheesecake bars, and cookie kits. When the mall closed due to the pandemic, Prince began personally delivering her goods to customers and started offering dry mixes (dubbed Kitchen Helpers) including mixes for chocolate chip cookies and biscuits to give new cooks a leg up in the kitchen. Prince plans on putting the grant towards renting out a larger space to accommodate catering orders. In the future, she hopes to partner with local schools to offer nutritious cooking classes to parents.