For West End dreamers, opening a restaurant is more reward than risk

**This article appeared first in the Courier Journal by Bailey Loosemore. You can read the original article here.

You won’t find a lot of reclaimed wood or polished subway tiles at the restaurants dotting Louisville’s West End neighborhoods.

They’re not the type of businesses that are focused on aesthetic, that have to stand out against tough competition or appear trendy in an effort to bring in customers.

Instead, they’re the type of businesses more concerned with filling a community need — an idea that may seem far-fetched to the people living near restaurant hotspots.

As Louisville continues to draw attention for its local food scene, it can be easy for people caught up in the excitement to forget that not every neighborhood in the city is as restaurant-heavy as others.

In West Louisville, independent restaurants come about one per neighborhood and even fast food chains that have locations in other parts of the city have not ventured by.

There are likely many reasons why restaurateurs aren’t looking at the poverty-stricken area — not the least of which is violence and crime.

But for people in the community who are determined to see its reputation turned around, there’s more reward than risk in opening a restaurant in West Louisville. And with hundreds of new jobs coming in, they may soon be the leaders of a new trend.

Within the next few years, two multi-million-dollar developments are expected to draw hundreds of new workers to the economically-strapped Russell neighborhood — and Pamela Haines can’t wait.

Haines owns Sweet Peaches, a soup and sandwich shop that’s open five days a week.

She started the restaurant in February 2014 and will eventually be about a five-block walk from the proposed YMCA and Passport Health Plan headquarters going in at the intersection of Broadway and Dixie Highway.

“I’m hoping to expand because Passport is going to employ (500) people and where are they going to eat?” Haines said.

Haines lives in Parkland but operates her restaurant at 1812 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd. in Russell, just a few doors down from the Chef Space kitchen incubator.

Chef Space, launched by Community Ventures in 2015, provides opportunities such as affordable kitchen space and funding access to food entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their businesses.

Chef Space hopes the people it supports will decide to keep their ventures in the West End once they expand, president Chris Lavenson said. So far, at least seven businesses have grown out of the center, including wings restaurant Daddy Rich’s, which is now looking for a space of its own.

“I think that as more restaurants open, then more business will be done for everybody,” Lavenson said. “People will start to learn they can stay in the community instead of leaving.”

A recent study commissioned by nonprofit One West found that residents in the West End spend about $217 million at retail businesses outside of their communities — mostly because they have few choices nearby.

Haines said the lack of options led her to open her restaurant, which also caters to downtown businesses.

“A lot of people are afraid to take a chance on the West End,” Haines said. “It’s a depressed part of town, there’s a lot of crime. But it didn’t deter me. I knew that I would open something in the West End. I would not go anywhere else besides the West End.”

Mary Jenefor knows a little about crime. Six years ago, on July 5, her brother Joshua was shot to death during an argument at the Sheppard Square housing complex.

His killer was caught, but Jenefor and her family have never forgotten the loss of their loved one. That’s why Jenefor is honoring her brother, who everyone called Shine, with a new restaurant she recently opened with her fiance at 3400 W. Market St. in Shawnee.

The restaurant is called Shine’s Diner, and it serves a mix of mostly American and Southern classics, like burgers and fried chicken.

Shine was known to cook soul food every Sunday, and Jenefor and her fiance, Mark Williams, have continued that tradition at their diner.

Every Monday, the couple also opens the restaurant from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to anyone in need of a free meal. It’s one more way they keep Shine in mind.

“Everybody has their bad side or whatever, but he was a really good-hearted person,” Jenefor said. “He liked to help people in need.”

Just more than a mile from Shine’s, Angela Bishop has also recently opened a restaurant, where she’s slinging more home cooked southern-style meals than her staff can keep up with.

Angie’s Home Cooking Family Restaurant opened June 4 in a former Burger King building at 2622 W. Broadway, in front of the Parkland Kroger.

Bishop said she’s already seen a lot of repeat customers stop by, and she’s more than happy to feed them now that her children have moved away from home and she has no one left to cook for.

“It’s something I think the community’s missing as a whole, anyway,” Bishop said. “Being able to sit down and eat a home cooked meal in a nice, clean environment.”

A good dinner can bring a family together, Bishop said. And she hopes her restaurant allows families to better communicate with one another.

“It provides them with an ample amount of time to sit down and share their days,” Bishop said. “That makes a big difference in the child’s life.”

Like Haines and Jenefor, Bishop knows about the violence in her community, and she wants to be part of the movement breaking away from it.

“Violence really doesn’t disturb me, if I live right and do the right things,” Bishop said. “I’m not going to let it keep me from living my dreams because some people want to go out and destroy each other for whatever reason.”

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