Owning a business is tough enough under normal circumstances, and the world is anything but normal due to COVID-19, which has wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry. And an August report from the New York Federal Reserve Bank showed that Black-owned businesses were twice as likely to close compared to white-owned businesses. Christopher Joseph, Jr., general manager of Houston’s This Is It Soul Food, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on Black-owned businesses.
This is it Soul Food is one of the oldest African-American restaurants in Houston, Texas. It was founded in 1959 by husband and wife Frank and Mattie Jones. Frank got the inspiration from his mother, who had cooked food for jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway in the 1920s and 30s. Years later, grandson Christopher Joseph, Jr. would take over, continuing to serve his grandparents’ signature dishes that originated from traditional slave and Southern cuisines, such as ham hocks, chitterlings, black-eyed peas, smothered pork chops, and oxtails.
The Houston staple had to scale back on some menu items during the height of the pandemic, but their loyal customers helped bring their offerings back to full scale.
“Yes. We’ve had to scale back on a few of the menu items route because, I mean, no one was really buying them at that time, but now that we’ve been open for maybe a year now since the pandemic started and we brought back the entire menu. People were asking about certain items. We kept saying we weren’t sure we were getting it, but they kept coming. So we just went ahead and put it back out there,” he said.
Along with the Houston community’s support, Joseph Jr. says that This is it Soul Food received a PPP grant of $10,000 — however he also noted that the process was not an easy one.
“That was a lot of work that my sister had to go through. She was contacting so many different people because we kept getting put off, put off, put off, and finally, we got through — I don’t even know how she got through.”
Joseph Jr. told Yahoo Finance that owning and operating a restaurant hasn’t been easy amid a pandemic, but the community and customers have been keeping the famed soul food restaurant alive and running.
“I’m actually seeing a lot more people coming out to support our restaurant lately in the community. It’s been an uplifting moment since the whole pandemic. We didn’t think we’d be open this long as we have been, and for them to still come out and help us and show their love and support for us. It means everything to us.”
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.