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 You must have a passion for this industry

By Chinta Strausberg
Fondly called “Mother Wade” by her customers, Josephine Wade talked frankly about the financial challenges of keeping the doors of her popular restaurant open but made it clear that owners must have a passion for this industry and have to be willing to sacrifice if they want to survive in this growing competitive field.
Wade and her son, Victor Love, her successor to the newly named Josephine Cooking Restaurant formerly known as Captain Hard Times, were guests on WPWR’s Channel 50’s “Perspectives” talk show scheduled to air 12 noon, Sunday, March 20, 2011.
Interviewed by host Kimbriell Kelly, Wade said her restaurant has been in business for 44-years and that the secret to staying in business is “to love what you are doing…. You can’t limit yourself to just sitting in your office….  I do it all,” the feisty restaurateur said.
Love agreed saying his mother is a “master” at her craft and “prides her self with being involved with the churches” and supports various social programs. “She’s got a good heart for reaching out to the community…,” he said.
When asked what are her business challenges, Wade said the most important one is the disparity in finance. “We don’t get the same (financial) consideration that other restaurants do. When you come downtown, you are paying $33.00 for a plate of food easily, but on the South Side you are paying $15 for the whole entrée yet you are shopping at the same place that the Hilton and the Hyatt do.”
Explaining, Wade said while she buys the same quality food at the same places high scale restaurants to, she is forced to take a loss because of her location and the fact that her customers expect more for less.
Asked how does she deal about the disparity in food prices while providing customers with the same quality of dishes, Wade admits it does cut into her profits and said sacrifices must be made to make ends meet.
“For the last four-years, we have not taken salaries,” said Wade explaining how she is managing to keep the doors of her historic Josephine’s Cooking restaurant doors open.
She also pointed to the newly installed parking meters installed along the 79th business strip that Wade said are hurting her restaurant business.
But, there is yet another new economic barrier that has Wade worried. To compound the financial burden of the parking meters, Wade said, “Now, we have a tax that is coming onto our property (tax) for security. It’s strange because I don’t know why we have to have this. I have never had a car broken into. I’ve never had any major incident that an outside person done.”
Wade said this SSA local property tax levy coupled with “the tax the governor is getting ready to put on us, I think it’s going to be much more of a (fiscal) struggle.”
She was referring to the Special Service Area (SSA) #51 which the city approved for the Chatham community. According to Karletta Kelly, assistant to the executive director of the Chatham Business Association, which is the service provider for the SSA #51 plan provides for more than just security. “Our particular business corridor has been asking for security, but it also includes a laundry list of other services” including area marketing/advertising assistance, snow removal and other services tailored for the Chatham community.
However both Wade and Love are worried about this SSA #51 plan and its $8,000 tax bill they will have to pay.  When asked how will he be able to attack these fiscal challenges since his mother is passing on the mantle to him, Love said he hopes to meet with the alderman of that ward while “raising the consciousness of the community to know that if you’re going to pay a meter here, you’re also going to pay for parking downtown. So, it kind of washes itself out.
“You have to get beyond making any excuse to do business with each other. We have to love our community first,” Love said.
Born in Louisiana, Kelly looked at the colorful and aromatic food presentation prepared by Wade. “It’s delicious. I smell crab…,” she said her eyes darting from one end of the decorated table to the other.
Wade showcased and detailed her food selections which included: Grill salmon, pressed with vinegar Parmesan dressing and served with some cilantro and cherry tomato, southern fried chicken with mustard and turnip greens and candy yams; macaroni and cheese garnished with hush puppies that were made out of black eye peas, red and green pepper, onions, cornmeal, eggs, buttermilk and combined and dropped in deep fry. Wade also displayed Tilapia on a stick, which caught the eye of Kelly.
Wade, dressed in a pink chef’s jacket, included fried chicken with twice vegetable potatoes that included cabbage and pecan duck sauce. She also cooked a blackened chicken, salad tossed in an Italian dressing and served on a bed of lettuce garnished with yellow and green Zucchini, hard boil eggs, tomatoes wedges, and topped with black beans and corn, red and green pepper onion rings and a honey mustard dressing.
And, to top off her presentation, Wade had pasta with French cut beans tossed in olive oil, which she says is healthy. She selected sweet ice tea as her choice of beverage.
When asked about the caloric intake of soul food, Wade explained,  “You can eat your own culture of food. It’s the intake that you take, the time of day that you eat, and if you go to bed kind of late, your first meal should be at lunch time (a heavy meal) and your supper meal should be light….” Wade said you should never go to bed after over-eating.
Love said at Josephine’s Restaurant, they serve “food from Italian to soul food” and praised his mother for “stretching and weaving together (the menu) real nicely.”
Wade also showed off her fried turkey that was dipped in a pecan sauce. That was a huge hit with the employees at Fox 32 who devoured the turkey along with her other food selections.
The show airs noon, Sunday, March 20, 2011, on WPWR Channel 50.
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host.
Photo: Chinta Strausberg
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