Black Owned Restaurant Month: Sweet Science (Brooklyn)
April 2016 marks the second year of Black-Owned Restaurant Month hosted by the blog I Don't Do Clubs. We thought that this was an excellent idea and way to support black-owned businesses while enjoying bomb food. We didn't get to participate in Black-Owned Restaurant Month last year, so it was a priority to try at least one black-owned restaurant this year. After looking at the menus of the participating black-owned restaurants, we decided to give Sweet Science in Brooklyn a try.
The atmosphere and food was amazing. All of the staff were extremely welcoming and everyone seemed so happy to be there. Porsche and I also had the pleasure of sitting down with the owner of Sweet Science, James, and picking his brain.
James was super busy that day but took the time out to sit down with us and share some of his knowledge. He was so friendly and just oozed with positive energy.
Here is what we learned:
Where are you from?
I was born in NY but raised in St. Croix. My mom and I moved to St. Croix after my parents were separated. My dad stayed in NY so I would visit him during the summer. I ended up moving back to NY for good after Hurricane Hugo.
What inspired you to open up a restaurant?
A couple of things...first of all my dream was (my passion when I was younger) was music. So, I did that for many years and I was able to support myself but within the meantime, I was bartending and waiting tables like starving artists do. My mom ended up getting cancer and I became uninspired. I didn't want to do music anymore.
My mom ended up passing and I was like "who do I even have to impress!?" It was a dark time but within those dark moments, the shining light was that I met my wife and we had a little girl. So, my only focus became wanting to take care of them. I started bartending again and it became like a stage. I started talking to people and entertaining them and I fell in love with it. Also around that time a friend of mine, Damon, opened up Flatbush Farm and I was able to see the mechanics of opening a restaurant from the ground up. I saw that and it was dope.
What was the process for finding and opening Sweet Science?
So one day I was having a beer with my buddy Maddy and he was saying "yo, if you find a space, I will open up a bar for you". The next day I saw a space for rent and called him saying I found a spot and he came down to look at the space. That's when it really started to click that this could happen. That didn't end up being the spot but I knew that opening up a bar could happen.
I used to pass this spot (Sweet Science) every day on my commute to my job at the time and one day I saw a sign that said "For Rent". I wasn't sure if this would be the right space because it was a residential building and so big. My thoughts were like "how can i fill this?" and my friend Maddy's concern was how we could make the space cozy. We had the opportunity to make a nice horseshoe bar because the space is so big.
When you find a space or that thing that's yours, that's for you, it's like you're on the top of a roller coaster and you see all the land around you and you hear the last click before it drops down and that's the feeling that you get when you find something that's for you.
Thats dope! So, what inspired the name for Sweet Science?
There was a lot of things that was wrong with the building. There were a lot of DOB (Department of Buildings) issues. We had six months that we were on track for and that turned into a year and three months. It really ate into everything that was done. I had a staff that was ready to work but they were getting other opportunities so I had to lose some of them because I couldn't keep them waiting to work. That just wouldn't have been fair.
So, that is how the name Sweet Science came about. Sweet Science is the technical term for the art of boxing. I was watching Rocky and listening to "The Eye of the Tiger". There is also a mural right outside of the restaurant of a boxer. So I inherited all of those things. This was all God's plan. I was thinking of the struggle and listening to Pac and asking myself what the name of the restaurant should be and decided on Sweet Science.
The restaurant was a fight to get open. I literally was in DOB every day. The biggest struggle was being able to get someone to say "yes" when 4-5 people were telling me "no". Hence the name Sweet Science because I was literally fighting to get this place open.
That is such a powerful meaning behind the name! What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
First of all, what is the idea? Establish the idea. That's the first thing.
The second thing is to react. Now, with Instagram, Facebook and Snap Chat, you have free advertising. You have to use that to your advantage. People are always searching for new ideas and new experiences. You just have to put it out there.
You have to be diligent and put fear behind you. What is the worst that could happen? Would you lose your life because an idea that you had didn't work out?...No. Figure out ways to raise money. There are so many different tricks; you just have to think out of the box and be very clever.
Fear and comfort are the two things that will really hold us back from everything. You dictate your own reality. If you try and you fail, then you would know what didn't work out the first time and most likely you will want to try again.
What does your day usually consist of as the owner of a business?
In the beginning there was no rest. I worked for everybody else. People think that the boss is someone that only oversees, but the boss is someone that could do everything and that has no shame in doing everything. There is nothing in this place that I have not done. If I ask one of my staff to do something for me, they know that I have done it.
I get here around 9 or 9:30 in the morning and sometimes I stay for like 8 hours or sometimes I stay for like 15. It's important as a leader to always be on the front lines. If there is a problem, most of the time I am here to handle it or I am not that far away. My days are long but joyful. You have all of these memories that are created overtime.
What is the importance of Black-Owned Restaurant Month?
This is the second time that I participated in Black-Owned Restaurant Month. It's important to support because it's an economic springboard for our culture and for the neighborhood. The experience of what's going on is great. We are celebrating black-owned restaurants and people are realizing that a lot of the restaurants they pass by or go to frequently are black-owned.
What does being Brown In The City mean to you?
You know that Crayola color? You know, that's right there amongst all the other shades of brown...and being able to be that thing, that swag, that magic and uniqueness that makes you stand out. Tupac said it best, "roses in concrete". When you see a rose growing in concrete...it's not the fact that you saw the rose; it's the fact that the rose grew in the concrete. That's what Brown In The City is.
Our conversation with James definitely was inspiring and a reminder that by following your dreams and having faith and consistency; anything is possible.
Check out Sweet Science on Instagram here.
Be sure to dine here for amazing food! There is something for everyone. There are comfort foods like mac n' cheese, sweet potatoes, fried chicken and some healthy options like a delicious warm kale and beet salad and artichoke salad with shrimp (pictured above).
Also, for a list of the restaurant participating in Black-Owned Restaurant Month click here. There are still a few days left in April.
It is important to support black-owned restaurants and businesses not only during this month but throughout the year.