“We are friendly, kind and loving people who want to just treat our customers good and do our neighborhood justice.” That is the stance of Teresa Folden, owner of the Boston Soul Café
, and her perspective on their role in the neighborhood since 2013.
With a background working with food and children, Folden, who resides in the community, knew there was a need for her business in the area. The original plan was to open an ice cream shop because her husband’s passion was ice cream. When they came across the building, the Foldens were offered a great price and realized that the space they acquired had enough room to fulfill her passion too, which was food.
Folden says that she would cater many church and school functions, so she was ready to start offering a small food menu as part of the Café, offering the community access to good food within walking distance of their homes as opposed to having to travel farther distances, such as to the popular 28th
The Café, which offers various food items, such as dressing, catfish and olive burgers — which Folden says is their No. 1 seller — has had its challenges, especially with the onset of COVID-19. “It’s been a roller coaster because people don’t support black-owned businesses like they should,” Folden says, adding how it can also be difficult with a smaller staff to perform all that is needed to further advertise and promote the business.
One person who has been right by her side helping all along the way is their new General Manager, Charles Archie Jr., also known as “Scooter.” With a business administration degree from Cornerstone University, he has utilized his administrative skills and knowledge to assist Folden, who he describes as someone with a good spirit and great heart.
“The important thing is making sure she’s here for as long as she wants to stay,” says Archie, who has worked in various roles as needed over the years before taking on this management position. Although Archie likes the increased autonomy in making business decisions on Folden’s behalf, his emphasis is and has always been on her presence in the community. “I am just another person and body to go in motion as an extension of her.”
As the community moves forward over the next couple of years in redevelopment and expansion, the Boston Soul Café hopes to be more heavily involved in that growth as well. Folden would eventually like to upgrade the seating area outside of the Café, welcoming more patrons. “We welcome the opportunities to grow and get grants and have different reinvestment dollars into our business,” says Archie, who adds that more community initiative will ensure their longevity.
Though Boston Soul Café has recently received more buzz by adding delivery accessibility through Uber Eats and Grubhub, the goal is increased awareness and regular visitors.
The Café is known for their quality food at low prices, offering a daily soul food menu with signature items. The menu is extended on Soul Food Sundays, which changes weekly along with the desserts.
Folden, a mother of two, is also known for her dedication to helping those in need, particularly the unhoused population. The Café is also working with SpringGR
to serve as a co-pilot of the program as a shared kitchen where small businesses can do prep work, assisting them with their business growth. As Archie mentions, there has been progress and “things are on the up and up,” which is all a result of Folden’s passion and love for food and people.
Photos by Isabel Media Studios
Southeast Strong is a series funded by the City of Grand Rapids that is focused on the multi-faceted neighborhoods of the city's southeast corridor. Through the exploration of the neighborhoods' entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and community members, the series' local storytellers will highlight the resiliency of resident voices and projects, especially during COVID-19 recovery.
Shanika P. Carter is an author, freelance writer, editor, and adjunct communications instructor. She is also the Principal Consultant of The Write Flow & Vibe, LLC (www.writeflowandvibe.com), offering writing, editing, and content development services to a variety of clientele, including fellow authors and businesses. Shanika is the author of the book To Lead or Not to Lead, which was released in 2019.
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