Historic Black-owned restaurant finds support through grant and an “unexpected surprise”

Community support keeping small Memphis business open

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Not much has changed about the soul food restaurant that first opened their doors in 1946 in the heart of Soulsville.

The green chairs and matching table cloths still adorn the table and the pictures of change-makers that regularly dined inside still line the walls.

However, there’s one major change.

No one has dined inside since March 19.

“We are a staple in this community and our customers want us to be here and they’re looking for us to come back. I just want to come back when it’s safe to come back,” said Four Way Grill Co-owner Patrice Bates Thompson.

Thompson says the uptick in COVID-19 cases has kept her from fully opening her doors.

She’s only open for a few hours on Fridays taking pre-orders online for pick-up. Her staff has dwindled from 27 to just six employees and she’s lost more than 50% of her income.

On Friday, Thompson learned she was awarded a $5,000 EDGE grant. 

The Neighborhood Emergency Economic Development (NEED) grant was created to provide relief to small businesses.

Cheryl Pesce who owns a clothing store in Crosstown Concourse called “Cheryl Pesce: The Lifestyle Brand” received the same grant a couple of weeks ago.

“I was really happy to find out Patrice had been awarded the grant,” said Pesce.

She coincidentally met Thompson recently when she ordered some masks from her store.

“I just felt her spirit, the goodness and I said you know she needs to be in the tribe, she’s going to be successful,” said Pesce.

What is “The Tribe?” Pesce says it’s not an official group but it’s just a group of professional and often Black women who vow to support each other’s businesses.

“The Tribe” is sure to place their orders at the Four Way Grill every Friday to help one of their fellow entrepreneurs stay afloat.

“COVID is a bad thing,” said Thompson. “A lot of people look at the negative, but we’ve been blessed to pull together and support one another.”

Thompson plans to extend The Four Way Grill’s days and hours on July 19.

However, she says, she will likely continue pick-up services only.

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