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Meet the heart behind Richmond's Soul Taco

Trey Owens grew up in Fulton Hill.
Posted at 10:02 AM, Feb 22, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- There are countless restaurants in Richmond. Often it can be easy to get lost with all of the different neon signs and banners claiming their food is the best in the city. Sometimes, it helps to go a little deeper to really understand a restaurant's story.

Such is the case with Trey Owens and Soul Taco.

Soul Taco opened October 30, 2018, and gained a social media following that helped establish it as a Richmond hot spot.

“We pretty much put everything on Instagram and Facebook.” Owens, who grew up in Fulton Hill, said.

It wouldn’t take long for the small restaurant in Jackson Ward based to start getting serious attention.

“On November 1, they (MSN) started a contest for the best new restaurant of 2018," Owens recalled. "We entered into it and by the end we had 60% of the vote.”

The positive social media attention attracted new customers and celebrities like Guy Fieri. The Food Network star featured Soul Taco on his show “Diners, Drive ins, and Dives.''

“To see it go from that to getting best tacos in the state by MSN.com and then eventually getting Guy Fieri’s attention and Food Network’s attention has been crazy," Owens said.

But things have not always been so successful for Owens. He stated he faced several obstacles throughout his life, including racial discrimination from others in the restaurant industry.

He said he would not let those hardships stop him from pursuing his goals. They only encouraged him to keep moving up and proving people wrong.

Owens has tremendous pride in his African-American heritage, and wanted to make sure Soul Taco reflected his values by being a safe place full of diversity.

Trey Owens with Soul Taco

“It’s important for me that everyone be included," he said. "I want people to see themselves in me, and know that they can do it because I am doing it.”

Throughout all the success, Owens has not forgotten where he is from and continues to work with various charities in hopes of improving his community.

Some of these charities include Bank a Taco, a program that raises money to help feed the homeless.

“The response was crazy. We raised over $1,000. It was the most rewarding thing ever," Owens said about the experience.

Owens said he wanted to continue his charity work, and challenged other restaurants to join him. He said he'd like to work on improving the state of his former high school, Richmond Community High.

Soul Taco has two locations. One at 321 N. 2nd Street, in Jackson Ward and the newer location at 1215 East Main Street in Shockoe Slip.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated Owens grew up in Jackson Ward, not Fulton Hill.

EDITOR’S NOTE: WTVR.com has partnered with the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project at VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students from the project reported this story.

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