Businesses owned by African Americans were affected the most by the coronavirus pandemic, but Michiganders can patronize Black-owned restaurants to offset the loss.
Black-owned businesses were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the number of Black business owners working across the country dropped from 1.1 million to just 640,000, according to a study for the National Bureau of Economic Research. Research from the University of California at Santa Cruz also found that 41% of Black-owned businesses shut down permanently last April, compared to 17% of white-owned businesses.
But even as businesses were closing, 40% of business owners of color “have added new services to support their communities and employees,” noted a study conducted last year by McKinsey & Company.
In celebration of Black History Month, and as the state of Michigan reopens restaurants with limited capacity, The ‘Gander is highlighting three Black restaurants to support during the pandemic.
Cooking With Que
Cooking With Que is one of the small businesses that has added new services to support its community and employees. When indoor dining had to cease, Quiana Broden turned to her local yellow pages to research businesses that were still open and began marketing her vegan restaurant to them. Many of those prospective customers were hospitals and front line healthcare workers. “If they’re open and they’re working, they still want food,” Broden told The ‘Gander of her thought process.
Broden added that although many restaurants and people were donating and buying healthcare workers lunch, much of that food wasn’t necessarily healthy. That’s how delivery and a meal-prep service became new commodities to the test kitchen and restaurant that’s located in Detroit’s midtown.
Everything from an “Oh Kale Yeah Burger” to “Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos” to “Black Eyed Pea Salsa On A Crostini” can be ordered online for pick up Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Various meal prep options are also available for customers to pick up on designated days.
Broden’s focus during the pandemic has been not only to provide healthy meals for her community, but also to keep her staff, who she called family, employed. “How do we keep the family fed during a pandemic?” Broden said she kept asking herself while brainstorming ideas to keep her business open when the doors had closed. In addition to offering menu items and a meal prep service, Cooking With Que also offers online and in-person cooking classes, following COVID-19 safety guidelines, of course.
Alexis Posey and Nina Rubin are a daughter and mother duo providing an array of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options on Detroit’s east side Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Their most-popular dishes include lamb chops, blackened salmon, and a turkey burger that’s “not your ordinary.”
Fortunately, for Gingerberry, which has been in existence for four years, business has increased during the pandemic. “With so many places being closed it left people with very little options, Rubin told The ‘Gander. “Gingerberry is the closest thing that you will get to home-cooked food.”
Not only do Posey and Rubin offer everything from red-velvet waffles to Impossible burgers to steak bites, but they also offer catering services. They’re available for delivery via DoorDash and Postmates too.
Rubin is elated to run Gingerberry with Posey. However, she made it clear that the vision was her daughter’s idea. Posey, who believes that ownership is important, knew that she wanted to build her own brand and leave something behind to “pass down” to her children. Posey said that working with her mother “has its ups and downs,” however, “it’s the best experience ever to be by your mom’s side.” She said that they learn a lot from each other.
The D Loft Cafe
In 2019, the D Loft Cafe opened in Oak Park as an addition to the Hamtramck-based D Loft, which is a social space for entrepreneurs owned and operated by Brandi Shelton. Shelton, who has been in business for 17 years, runs an incubation space, hosts events, and provides guidance for chefs and cooks to make their culinary dreams come to fruition.
The cafe serves as a food hub for over 20 different chefs to showcase their skills. “Every day we have a different chef that presents for the day,” Shelton told The ‘Gander. “For each chef, we have a standardized menu that they can prepare, and then they all have a special for the day that’s their own signature dish.”
The D Loft Cafe offers a myriad of options, from smoked chicken wings to burgers to Philly’s to pineapple bowls to stuffed potatoes. On Tuesdays, they even have a Vegan Day, where the entire menu is free of meat and dairy. However, a fan-favorite is their $12 lamb chops that are served on Thursdays.
In addition to supporting a slew of the Mitten’s chefs and cooks, Shelton also offers a blended, hand-crafted, and flavorful lemonade collection that is created by Michigan youth.