COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – After staying afloat during last year’s pandemic, one restaurant owner is fearful about having to close her doors again.
Michele Tolbert-Grimes is the owner of Sally Ann’s Kitchen, a restaurant she named after her late mother. Tolbert-Grimes grew up watching her mother run her own restaurant, she said her mother always told her to open a restaurant, but she was a little hesitant of the idea.
“My mom had a cafe, she sold cheeseburgers, hot wings, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, rice, different stuff like that,” Tolbert-Grimes said.
After her mother died, Tolbert-Grimes said she got a message from God one day saying she needed to open a restaurant.
“Before my mama passed away she asked me to open up a restaurant for me, my brother and my sister. I told her ‘No’ because I worked at Blue Cross Blue Shield and that was something that I liked to do, in the corporate world. I just didn’t want to open a business, so when she asked me to open up I told her ‘No’ but back in 2019, God spoke to me and he said it’s my time and it was my time to open up a restaurant and I did,” Tolbert-Grimes said.
After opening her first restaurant, Tolbert-Grimes restaurant was affected by the pandemic.
“When the pandemic hit, I went to God was like I just opened up my restaurant and I was scared. I’ve seen where most big businesses closed their doors because of the pandemic hit and no one was getting out. Everybody was cooking at home and I was scared,” Tolbert-Grimes said.
But, Sally Ann’s Kitchen managed to keep its doors open.
“What kept me afloat was when I opened up the restaurant I opened up as delivery and I said I wasn’t going to go through DoorDash or Uber Eats. I was going to do the delivery hire in-house instead of hiring outside you know with DoorDash and that’s what helped me stay afloat. You know some people don’t want to cook so basically they called in and we delivered the food to them,” Tolbert-Grimes said.
Sally Ann’s Kitchen opened for indoor dining three months ago, with COVID cases spiking back up and with the new Delta variant. Tolbert-Grimes is afraid she’ll be in the same predicament as last year.
“Well right now I’m back to like I was when it hit in 2020, I’m scared because I feel like they’re getting ready to shut everything back down. People are not getting vaccinated like they should and COVID is really bad right now and I’m scared,” Tolbert-Grimes said.
Even in the midst of all of the uncertainty, Tolbert-Grimes said she’s still glad she went into the restaurant business.
“Well, I’m not going to say that I regret doing it because I love feeding my community and employing a lot of people. When the pandemic hit I made sure my employees got their hours, I didn’t cut their hours I made sure I found something for them to do so they could continue to work and pay their bills. I would rather for them to get money instead of me, I lost a lot in the pandemic but I know God is going to make a way for me to regain everything I lost,” Tolbert-Grimes said.
Tolbert-Grimes told News 3 she has a plan in place in case thongs get shut down again.
“The government put out PPE loans and what I’ve done, I’ve set that money aside, that would be my saving grace,” Tolbert-Grimes said.
Since being in business, Tolbert-Grimes believes her mother would be proud.
“My mother would be so proud because she kept wanting me to do this while she was living. By me opening up when she passed, I know she’s looking down, she’s keeping me covered,” Tolbert-Grimes said.
She also believes her mother would enjoy her cooking.
“She would say some of the things that we made taste just like hers. Everybody loves ox-tails, I don’t care what day of the week it is. We only serve ox-tails on Wednesdays and Sundays but on Thursdays, Saturdays they’re calling, do you have ox-tails? I’m like no, but I’m thinking should I add ox-tails to the everyday menu because they sell pretty well,” Tolbert-Grimes said.