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Grant saves restaurant from ‘drowning’; Sept. 5 event to say ‘thanks’ Memphis

Roger Brown’s initial call from the Discover Credit Card Corporation to award his restaurant a $25,000 grant was met with a cool “maybe yes, maybe no.”

“You just can’t tell these days,” Brown said. “I didn’t know if it was a scam, somebody playing a prank. It could be anything. I didn’t tell anybody. I said, ’I’m going to wait until they put a check in my hand. Then, I will believe it.”

And soon, there was an actual check in hand — $25,000 from Discover’s Eat It Forward Grant program.

“We were at a point where we had to make a decision of whether or not to remain open, or just close the doors,” said Brown. “Then, the $25,000 comes. It helps tremendously. Now, we want to say ‘thanks’ to our customers with a free food and free services giveaway — our restaurant (Meals for You), along with the other businesses in our strip mall. Everyone is welcome to come out.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony seemed far-fetched before Discover Credit Card Corporation came through with a $25,000 grant. (Courtesy photo)

Admission is free and businesses on the back of the strip mall, where the restaurant is located, will offer free services, including from the beauty shop and the barbershop. The location is 4205 Hacks Cross Road.

The restaurant will offer free hotdog and smoke sausage sandwiches. The event is slated for 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., Sept. 5.

Two other Memphis restaurants also received the $25,000 Eat It Forward Grant. They are the historic Four Way Grill and Smurfy’s Smokehouse.

Meals For You Catering Service and Restaurant was officially started the summer of 2018. That December, Brown’s wife died suddenly, leaving him a lone entrepreneur to continue the business.

“My daughter, Raquel Brown, earned her masters in hotel and restaurant management from University of Tennessee in Knoxville,” said Brown. “She decided to return to Memphis and help me run the business.

“But my wife’s sudden death left us all grieving. I got grief counseling for myself, my children and, even, my church because my wife was a big part of our church family.”

Brown is pastor of the historic Greater White Stone Baptist Church in Memphis. For a while there, he was building the catering business, preaching and pastoring, and working at LeMoyne-Owen College.

“So, I earned my degree after all my children got through school,” said Brown. “I entered LeMoyne’s accelerated business administration program. I wrote my capstone paper — that’s my final paper — on how to build a catering business.”

Brown said there was a professor he had who saw him after he graduated.

“His name was Dr. Anwar,” Brown said. “He would ask me every time he saw me, ‘Mr. Brown, have you made your first million yet?’ I would think about how he believed in what I wrote so much that he had faith that my catering business would succeed. So, I jumped in feet first and just did it.”

The business just took off, and the bookings were filling up their calendar when COVID-19 hit. Everything changed in a matter of days, Brown remembers.

“The pandemic hit, and all of our big events went away. No weddings, no repasts, no baby showers, no wedding showers. Everything went to nothing in no time,” Brown said.

Brown’s daughter, Raquel, who is co-owner of the business, convinced her father sometime before the pandemic to open a restaurant, in addition to the catering service.

“I felt like we needed to be operating a restaurant, along with the catering business,” said Raquel. “So, we had opened the restaurant and building a solid business. Things were moving nicely until the pandemic hit. Then, all of our big events were wiped off the books. And the restaurant had to close those weeks when all restaurants had to close.”

But the Eat It Forward Grant money helped the restaurant and catering get a firmer footing.

“It has helped us to keep going,” said Brown. “We want to reach out to the Memphis community now, and that’s how we came up with the Sept. 5 free giveaway event.”

 

(For additional information on the Sept. 5 food and services event call Meals For You at (901) 283-0872.)

 

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