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How celebrating Richmond's Black restaurants serves the community

How celebrating Richmond's Black restaurants serves the community
Posted at 6:34 PM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 18:34:22-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond's Black Restaurant Experience is connecting people with delicious food all while supporting local businesses and the community.

"We want to see the small businesses last for hundreds of years," Shemicia Bowen, one of the organizers of the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience, said.

Restaurants across the country are still rebounding financially from the ongoing pandemic.

"In many cases, restaurants and food truck operators have operated in months since 2020," Bowen said.

Bowen said the event is helping small establishments keep their lights on and pay their employees.

Over the six-year history, she said participating establishments have generated over $3 million and counting during the week-long event.

"When you're trying something new, you are literally impacting the 10 to 12 people that work here," Bowen said.

Community organizations outside the restaurant industry are also benefiting from the event.

"Over the past six years, we have selected a nonprofit every year and that nonprofit becomes the beneficiary of all these cool experiences that we've done. The past three years, we've selected the League of Greater Richmond, young professionals. We've been able to award them $5,000. Every year," Bowen said.

Business is also picking up at Brewer's Cafe in South Richmond. Owner Ajay Brewer has participated in the Black Restaurant Experience every year since it first began.

"This gives me a lot of pride to be able to put our culture on Front Street and invited people into how we do things a little bit," Brewer said.

He and his wife Joy have been preparing for the influx of new customers for months.

"Since January 1, we've been putting fliers together and working on our marketing strategy and promoting other restaurants, encouraging people to participate," Brewer said.

Brewer said the extra work is worth the benefits.

"Financially, this kicks off the year. It's huge. It's probably a 50% to 100% increase," Brewer said.

They are also excited to expand their customer base.

"It's an opportunity for new eyes to be on me to impress them, to show them what we got, to get lifelong customers," Brewer said.

Organizers say connecting foodies with local establishments to promote economic diversity is what the Black Restaurant Experience is all about.

"We need the community to understand that they're eating their way back to success and eating their way to prosperity," Bowen said.

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